EXCLUSIVE: OLS task force takes down human smuggling operation



(The Center Square) – After a year-long investigation into a smuggling operation at the border, an Operation Lone Star Task Force led by Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd took down several operatives allegedly involved in human smuggling.

The Center Square on Friday accompanied Boyd on an undercover operation in the border town of Roma in Starr County that led to the arrest of two women after one was arrested on Thursday. Two others remain at large with warrants out for their arrest.

In the early morning hours while it was still pitch black, sheriff’s deputies from Goliad and Jackson counties, Kingsville Police Department narcotics officers, and U.S. Marshalls were involved in arresting members of an alleged human trafficking ring uncovered by Goliad County Sheriff’s Office investigators.

The investigation began in coordination with Border Patrol agents. Starr County Sheriff’s Office liaisons were on scene as was Texas Border Czar Mike Banks.

Boyd’s OLS Task Force members hit the second leg of an alleged human smuggling transport operation based in Roma.

The first leg, organized by cartel operatives, involved transporting foreign nationals from Mexico across the Rio Grande River into Roma. After they arrived, different women, including a mother of young children, allegedly took turns transporting the foreign nationals to Houston.

When some did, they drove through Goliad County, were apprehended and arrested on smuggling charges. Then, GCSO special investigators launched an in-depth investigation and uncovered a human smuggling ring previously unknown to law enforcement.

They next identified other members of the group and discovered that they had been working together on multiple occasions acting as scouts and drivers, transporting illegal foreign nationals through Border Patrol check points and then through Goliad on their way to Houston.

“If you commit a crime in Goliad County, with the funds provided by the governor through Operation Lone Star, we will hunt you down no matter where you are,” Boyd told The Center Square, issuing a warning to those who commit similar acts in his county. “We will find you and we will arrest you. And we will provide you with free transportation to, and housing in, our jail.”

In the past 24 hours, that’s exactly what happened. Three women were arrested and charged with continuous smuggling of persons, a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison per count. All three arrested are U.S. citizens and residents of Roma: Margarita Garcia 41, Jackqueline Munoz, 34, and Christine Montelango, 34. Two alleged smugglers remain at large with warrants out for their arrest.

Garcia was arrested on Thursday in a traffic stop. Munoz was arrested early Friday morning with her 15-year-old daughter in her vehicle. Montelango was arrested after dropping her young children off to school. She was wearing a T-shirt with an image of a rat wearing a crown holding a needle and a piece of cheese that reads, “snitches get stitches.”

Investigators told The Center Square it’s not unusual for women, including mothers, to smuggle people. Sometimes “they use their own children as cover,” they said.

Their findings were also typical operations of a transnational criminal organization, they said. The alleged smugglers held foreign nationals in a stash house in Mission, a border town roughly an hour east, before moving them north.

Each of the women is being held on $175,000 bond in the Goliad County jail.

The OLS Task Force and the Goliad Sheriff’s Office have developed a reputation of pursuing and arresting those who commit crimes in their county.

Boyd told The Center Square that transporting alleged criminals to their jail was part of their methodology “of bringing defendants to the Goliad jurisdiction to ensure we conduct the most thorough investigation we can. Instead of making the arrests and turning them over to local jurisdictions, we continue investigating in an effort to identify and arrest the principals of the organization we are working with.”

OLS Task Force members include “like-minded” sheriffs, Jackson County Sheriff Kelly R. Janica told The Center Square. He proudly joined Boyd when the task force was created more than two years ago. One of his deputies was on scene in Starr County, roughly four hours south of Jackson County.

“We’re committed to criminal law enforcement in our counties,” Jackson said. “We will not give the cartels a foothold. We will not allow them to use our county for stash houses and staging areas. We will not allow them free passage through our counties so they can prey upon other Texans.”

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