The Driver, Comothial Harper of Bainbridge Georgia had made earlier successful smuggling runs
Federal agents found 23 migrants and more than 200 pounds of marijuana hidden in a semitrailer just outside of the El Paso city limits, officials said.
Homeland Security Investigations agents assigned to the El Paso Border Enforcement Security Task Force pulled over the semitrailer Wednesday on Interstate 10 East near the Eastlake exit, officials said.
Agents with the task force, which includes U.S. Border Patrol agents, found 18 men and two unaccompanied boys hiding behind boxes in the trailer, officials said.
Agents also found two women and a man in the sleeper cabin inside the truck.
Twenty of the migrants are from Mexico and three are from Guatemala, officials said.
Agents also found more than 250 pounds of marijuana hidden in the sleeper cabin, officials said.
The migrants were taken into federal custody pending the outcome of their immigration cases, officials said.
All 23 migrants appeared to be in good health despite no ventilation inside the trailer, officials said.
“The people inside the trailer had a long trip ahead of them, and nothing assures us they would have arrived at their destination alive,” said Waldemar Rodriguez, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso. “HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to work tirelessly to dismantle human smuggling networks operating on the border.”
The semitrailer driver, 44-year-old Comothial Harper, was arrested on suspicion of transporting undocumented immigrants for financial gain. Harper is from Bainbridge, Georgia.
Gerardo Aguilar-Roque, 35, who was a passenger in the truck, was arrested on suspicion of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.
The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Border Patrol and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
This is thesecond case near El Paso this week in which a large number of migrants were found hidden in the back of a semitrailer.
Irving Hernandez-Rueda, 21, was arrested Monday after Border Patrol agents found 20 migrants hidden in the back of a semitrailer at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca about 85 miles southwest of El Paso. He was allegedly hired by an unamed person in Juárez to transport the undocumented immigrants from El Paso to Pecos.
Hernandez-Rueda was arrested on suspicion of bringing in and harboring undocumented immigrants.
The migrants, who were all men from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala, were unharmed and transported to area immigration detention centers, officials said.
Comothial Harper, Had made successful smuggling runs in the past, according to court documents
According to court documents, Comothial Harperthe driver of the truck stopped on I-10 near Eastlake with over twenty illegal immigrants hidden in the trailer earlier this week had made similar runs in the past..
El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies pulled Harper over on Gateway East and Eastlake for allegedly failing to signal. During the traffic stop, they learned he had an outstanding warrant for fraud out of Abilene, Texas.
During a search of his truck, Deputies found 23 undocumented immigrants hiding behind boxes inside his truck.
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Harper allegedly told investigators that he was originally approached by a man at the Petro gas station in Horizon about a month ago with a proposition to transport several family members to California for $3,000 cash as soon as they were delivered to California. Harper said he agreed and was paid when he arrived with the immigrants to California.
A few weeks later, the same person called Harper back and asked him to drive six undocumented immigrants to a gas station in Dallas, which he did for another $3,000.
Tuesday, August 15, Harper was contacted a third time. This time, the contact asked him to smuggle even more people to Dallas for $5,000 which would be paid as soon as all of the immigrants were delivered to Dallas.
An arrangement was made to meet at the Petro gas station in Anthony, Texas. While there, the immigrants were loaded in the back of the truck and Harper grabbed a small cooler with bottled water to leave with them since he said he knew the truck wasn’t air conditioned or ventilated.
Court documents show that Harper had $4,300 in cash that he said was from the two previous smuggling trips on him at the time of his arrest.
Three immigrants who were inside the truck at the time of the stop told investigators that they’d all crossed separately through the Rio Grande near Downtown El Paso anywhere from two to seven days before the smuggling attempt in the truck.
Each of the immigrants told authorities that they were picked up by someone once they arrived in El Paso and kept somewhere before being taken to Anthony and loaded into the truck.
35 years in the trucking business and living in Mexico for the past 15 years, make me uniquely qualified to offer my insight and opinion into the Mexican trucking industry and other border issues. A contributor to SiriuxXM Road Dog Channel 106 and to the award winning Lockridge Report, Mexico Trucker Online continues to publish the unvarnished truth about the subjects we cover.