Gang members caught smuggling 54 migrants in a tanker

Two gang members and one other individual were arrested in connection with the attempted smuggling of 54 migrants inside a tank truck, according to an arrest affidavit.

The case unfolded on May 27, when authorities received reports of a white tanker being used to smuggle migrants into Texas area 359 and Ranch Road 6086-C in Laredo. U.S. Border Patrol officers set up surveillance in the area and observed about nine vehicles entering Ranch Road 6086-C from Texas 359 at high speed.

Officers later observed a white tanker truck exit Ranch Road 6086-C, followed by a gray Chevrolet Trailblazer. Officers carried out mobile surveillance of the area to the border patrol checkpoint in Laredo. The information was relayed to officers at the checkpoint.

Officers working at the checkpoint encountered the white tanker and identified the driver as Rafael Cazarez Jr. During the primary inspection, a K-9 unit reportedly alerted to possible contraband inside the vehicle. A search of the trailer revealed 54 people who were illegally in the country. All were Mexican citizens, according to court documents.

The Trailblazer also arrived at the checkpoint. Officers identified the driver as Ricardo Vela and the passenger as Jaime Vigil. Vela said he was traveling to Carrizo Springs for a job. Vela had no ID. Vela and Vigil were subjected to secondary inspection and detained based on the screening activity observed during surveillance, the affidavit states.

In a post-arrest interview, Cazarez claimed to be a self-proclaimed member of a Mexican mafia gang and added that he was a heroin addict. Cazarez said a man identified as “Chaparro” had hired him to smuggle migrants from Laredo to San Antonio.

“Cazarez said this was his eighth time of (migrant) smuggling and that he is paid a lump sum of $ 50,000 per trip,” the affidavit states.

Cazarez said a cell phone found by authorities belonged to Vigil.

“Cazarez stated that Vigil had family relations with ‘Chaparro’ and that he was at the place of loading and involved in the attempted human trafficking for monetary gain,” the affidavit states.

In a post-arrest interview, Vigil said he was unemployed and used heroin. He denied any involvement in human trafficking and said he was traveling to Carrizo Springs to seek employment. Vigil then ended the interview.

In an interview with the guard, Vela admitted to being a member of the Tango Blast gang. He, too, said he was unemployed and used heroin. He denied any involvement in human trafficking. When confronted with information about the investigation, Vela ended the interview.

Cazarez, Vigil and Vela were arrested and charged with transport, attempted transport and conspiracy to transport the migrants.

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