Texas OLS officers, Texas Rangers apprehend smugglers, gang members

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(The Center Square) – Texas Operation Lone Star officers, including Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, special investigators, Texas Rangers and others continue to apprehend alleged human smugglers and gang members, including those who previously absconded and illegally reentered Texas.

In one recent arrest, Texas Rangers apprehended a Tango Blast gang member, Juan Miguel Regalado, after he evaded arrest in April for alleged human smuggling and absconded to Mexico.

In late April, Regalado led Texas DPS troopers on a high-speed pursuit in Webb County, DPS says. During the pursuit, he slowed down to allow several foreign nationals to bail out of his vehicle at a busy intersection in the middle of oncoming traffic. One who jumped out hit the pavement and suffered injuries to his head. Others ran through oncoming traffic to avoid being apprehended by law enforcement.

Multiple troopers engaged in pursuit of Regalado, who continued to drive south on I-35 heading to the Rio Grande River. He eventually drove down an embankment into the river, dumped the vehicle and swam across to Mexico.

At some point, he reentered Texas and was arrested by Texas Rangers.

Also in Webb County, DPS troopers and Criminal Investigations Division special agents stopped the drivers of a Peterbilt truck tractor semi-trailer and Dodge Ram pickup truck on I-35, who were driving in tandem. The driver of the Peterbilt truck got out of the vehicle to be questioned.

When asked where he was headed, he said, “to pick up vacuum loads.” The trooper pointed out that his hands were shaking and asked if he was hiding anything inside the truck. He said he wasn’t. The trooper said, “I’m asking you right now, am I going to find anything illegal in the vehicle?” The driver replied, “I didn’t do anything illegal” and consented to a search of the vehicle.

The troopers found 19 Mexicans who were hiding behind the cab in an enclosed area that had been zipped closed. The trooper instructed one, who appeared to be suffering from heat exhaustion, to get air “because it is very hot in here.” He received medical treatment.

The drivers, two white men, Jackson Earl West of Tomball, Texas, and Dennis Allen Davis of Jarrell, Texas, were arrested and charged with smuggling of persons. All 19 illegal foreign nationals were referred to Border Patrol.

Several hours northwest in Kinney County, Texas DPS troopers and Florida Highway Patrol troopers pulled over alleged human smugglers, both women. After approaching the vehicle, they saw four illegal foreign nationals crammed in the rear seat area of the truck. The driver, Karina Isamar Martinez from Houston, also got out of the vehicle to be questioned.

She told the troopers she picked up “hitchhikers,” a common answer given by Americans driving to the border from Houston, over five hours away, The Center Square reported.

“They were hitchhiking and Hispanic,” she told the trooper. When asked, “You just randomly picked them up, no one texted you?” She replied, “no sir.” When asked where she picked the “hitchhikers” up, she said on the side of the road. She also confirmed she didn’t know who they were and that several were lying flat in the truck bed hiding underneath a cover.

Contrary to the claims of those arrested, human smuggling is coordinated, DPS spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez told The Center Square. People are communicating on social media platforms and through encrypted messaging. “They’re providing GPS coordinates to pick up these individuals that are crossing the border illegally. The intent is there. They know what they’re doing, but again, when they get stopped by law enforcement, they try to distance themselves from the criminal activity.”

Additionally, no one from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or other major trafficking hubs several hours away, are driving to the border to pick up “hitchhikers,” several law enforcement officers have told The Center Square.

Martinez and her passenger, Azucena Raquel Roman, from Hockley, Texas, were both arrested for smuggling of persons. The seven illegal foreign nationals hiding in the vehicle were referred to Border Patrol.

Since Gov. Greg Abbott launched OLS in March 2021, OLS-participating officers have apprehended more than 513,100 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 43,700 criminal arrests, with more than 38,400 felony charges reported, according to the latest data.

Among them are more than 7,300 alleged smugglers who were arrested ranging from ages 13 to 77, according to DPS data.

Of the several new border security-related laws now in effect, one includes increased penalties for human smuggling to a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence.

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