12 migrants hospitalized, 7 ‘coyotes’ arrested in human smuggling operation in south Bexar County

‘Big money’ operation uncovered following tip to BCSO

SAN ANTONIO – A smuggling operation that Sheriff Javier Salazar called “big money” and “clearly cartel-related” was discovered Thursday in far south Bexar County.

Salazar says 26 migrants were found on a piece of property in the 2700 block of Oak Island Drive. The migrants were believed to have been transported in a false compartment under a flatbed trailer, lying on a metal grate just a few feet above the road for “upwards of about three hours.”

A total of 12 migrants were transported to hospitals for heat-related and minor injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

Seven people believed to have been involved in the smuggling operation were in custody, Salazar said, though he noted additional “coyotes” could be trying pass themselves off as victims.

BCSO received information Thursday morning morning about a smuggling operation involving a gooseneck trailer and “several dozen people,” Salazar said. The sheriff’s office conducted surveillance and saw a truck pulling a gooseneck trailer into the property followed by an SUV that served as a decoy or a lookout vehicle.

The sheriff believed the migrants were being transported from the Laredo area to Bexar County, where they were held in a structure he described as “pretty much a shack.”

“The windows are open. There’s no AC in there. There’s no running water. They’ve got buckets that everybody’s been utilizing as toilet,” he said.

“I didn’t even see any source of drinking water. But it’s miserable conditions there, and it’s just blazing hot in there.”

Salazar said a woman from Guatemala paid $16,000 to get here, but he wasn’t sure from what country the others came from.

Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection were also on the scene, and Salazar said they would be taking over the “status of the victims.”

Salazar said they found bulletproof vests and rifles at the scene.

About the Authors

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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