Suspects involved in deadly human smuggling ring convicted

4 months 3 weeks 4 days ago Thursday, September 28 2023 Sep 28, 2023 September 28, 2023 10:41 AM September 28, 2023 in News - Local

Several members of a human smuggling ring have pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle migrants that resulted in multiple deaths.

Authorities arrested 40-year-old Juan Manuel Tena, from Pharr, 37-year-old Julia Isairis Torres, 34-year-old Israel Torres and 27-year-old Jose Refugio Torres, all three are from Roma, according to a news release.

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The release says all four suspects conspired to transport the migrants from the Valley to other parts of the U.S. As a result, a total of eight migrants were killed and two others were seriously injured.

The suspects were all involved in the attempted smuggling of illegal migrants back in March 2019. They were transporting the migrants to Houston when a crash caused the vehicle to rollover, killing four of the migrants and seriously injury one, according to the release.

Tena was also involved in another smuggling attempt back in February 2022. He and other suspects attempted to smuggle migrants by watercraft from South Padre Island to the Corpus Christi area. The watercraft ended up capsizing, killing four migrants and seriously injury another, according to the release.

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The victims in these failed smuggling attempts included migrants from Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Ecuador. They also included a 17-year-old boy from Ecuador and a pregnant woman from Honduras, according to the release.

The release says as part of his plea, Tena admitted to coordinating the transports of the migrants and recruiting co-conspirators in both March 2019 and February 2022 incidents. Tena also forfeited several properties in Roma and Pharr that were purchased with money he received from the smuggling attempts.

According to the release, Julia Torres, Jose Torres and Israel Torres admitted to their involvement in the March 2019 incident. 

All three have since bonded out until their scheduled court hearing. Tena remains in custody pending sentencing, according to the release.

All four face up to life in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. Their sentencing is scheduled for December 20.

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