Laredo man accused of smuggling 54 undocumented immigrants to face charges, feds say

(SBG San Antonio photo)

Homeland Security officials say a 36-year-old man from Laredo will face federal human smuggling charges after he was allegedly found with more than 50 undocumented immigrants inside his refrigerated truck on the North side Tuesday night.

Related Story: More than 50 suspected undocumented immigrants, including minors, found in big rig

The group was found in the truck in the alleyway of the 8400 block of Greenbrier near Loop 410 behind the Greenbrier Apartments at about 8:30 p.m. This is just across the highway from the San Antonio International Airport.

At the time, San Antonio firefighters said 55 people were found within the truck, but federal authorities confirmed Wednesday that the correct number of people found was 54. Five people were transported to the hospital for injuries they sustained while trying to run out of the truck and away from the scene, according to San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. Shane Folden, Special Agent in Charge with Homeland Security Investigations, said four of those transported to the hospital have been released, while one remains hospitalized. The immigrants hailed from countries including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Brazil. Among the group were men, women and minors.

"The people rescued from this tractor-trailer were very lucky to have been discovered before the Texas heat took its toll,” said Folden. “We have recently seen how smuggled people have died under the dangerous circumstances human smugglers transport their human cargo. These horrific instances show how no one should trust their lives — or the lives of their loved ones — to these criminal organizations.”

WATCH: Federal authorities give details on Tuesday night's human smuggling incident

The driver was identified as 36-year-old Gerardo Carreron of Laredo. Feds said he will face federal human smuggling charges. The route and final destination of the truck were not disclosed.

Tuesday night's human smuggling incident posed many questions about who would, or wouldn't, take over the investigation following recent events. The previous local human smuggling incident caused controversy between the San Antonio Police Department, state and federal authorities. On December 23, 2017, a citizen approached an officer and told him he had seen something strange in the 3400 block of Copeland. When the officer got there, he found 12 people in the back of an 18-wheeler. The driver and a companion were also there. The police officer, as is customary in smuggling cases, immediately called Homeland Security to assist. According to Homeland Security investigations, "they offered their assistance at the scene. SAPD decided the state would handle the matter."

Related Story: Report states federal agent's offer to help during smuggling investigation was ignored

In a federal report filed by the agent who responded to the scene, he states that Chief McManus told him he did not want the agent's federal Homeland Security badge to be seen by the 12 immigrants because he didn't want him to scare them. The agent also stated that when he offered to help to do the Spanish interviews since there was only one Spanish speaking officer available, the chief ignored him and walked away. The Texas Attorney General's Office is now investigating McManus to determine if he violated SB4, also known as the "sanctuary cities" law.

Folden said they were "called by local law enforcement" Tuesday night, but did not say how the truck was initially found.

Feds said that due to the group's size, they are still being held in a facility for processing. It's unknown at this time where they will go following processing. All decisions will be made following their trials.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to release more information on Carreron's charges later on Wednesday.

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