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6 arrested in human smuggling ring tied to at least 8 migrant deaths in South Texas

In one smuggling attempt, four migrants died after a boat capsized near Corpus Christi, according to the indictment.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Six people who conspired to smuggle people into the United States illegally were arrested this week, a statement from U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said.

The smuggling attempts resulted in the deaths of at least eight migrants, the statement said. Four of those people died near Corpus Christi after the boat they were being smuggled in capsized, the statement said.

Those charged and taken into custody over the last three days are Juan Manuel Tena, 39, Pharr; Julia Isairis Torres, 37, Israel Torres Jr., 33, Erasmo Garcia III, 21, and Alexis Rafael Adorno, all of Roma; and Jose Refugio Torres, 26, Austin.

"Tena was the alleged leader of the alien smuggling ring and coordinated a network of co-conspirators throughout the Southern District of Texas," the statement said. "Tena and his co-conspirators allegedly conspired to transport illegal aliens from the Rio Grande Valley to destinations within the United States."

In one smuggling attempt, Tena, Julia Torres, Israel Torres, Jose Torres and Garcia were smuggling people by car from the Valley to Houston in March 2019 when the vehicle rolled over, the statement said. Four migrants were killed and one was seriously injured.

Tena and Adorno are also charged with attempted smuggling stemming from an incident in February 2022. Five migrants were being smuggled by boat from South Padre Island to the Corpus Christi area when the boat capsized. Four migrants were killed and another was seriously injured, the statement said. 

All suspects face up to life in prison a possible $250,000 maximum fine for the conspiracy and up to 20 years for each count of transporting illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury. 

The arrests came as part of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Operation Justice for All.


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