McALLEN — An engaged couple from La Joya faces human smuggling charges after being found with more than 20 undocumented immigrants.
Robert Treviño 39, and Gladys Muñoz, 41, stood before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker for a detention hearing related to their arrest on human smuggling charges on May 29, court records show.
Treviño, represented by a federal public defense attorney, elected to waive both his preliminary and detention hearing during his appearance before Hacker Tuesday afternoon.
Hacker, based on Treviño’s “lengthy criminal history,” remanded Treviño into custody pending his next court hearing.
Muñoz, represented by Edinburg-based attorney Daniel Mora, was also remanded into custody.
But Muñoz’s detention might be temporary, as Hacker said he would soon rule on whether or not to grant her a bond.
Hacker’s reluctance was based on federal pretrial officials who said there was a concern about Muñoz’s living situation if she were to be released on bond.
Muñoz, through her attorney, was able to convey that there was a residence she could move into if she were released.
The soon-to-be married defendants were arrested last Tuesday after U.S. Border Patrol and local police officers watched as the two attempted to transport undocumented immigrants to an unknown location in McAllen.
The arrest of the couple happened on May 29, when agents working still camera operations near Havana, Texas, observed several people running north, away from the Rio Grande River, a known high-traffic area for undocumented migrants crossing into the United States.
The camera operators then witnessed two sedans leaving the area near where he had seen the group of people running.
Based on this information, Border Patrol agents proceeded to follow the vehicles, a Toyota Corolla and a Nissan Sentra, which were traveling north, and then east on Highway 83, the complaint states.
“The agent proceeded to follow the Corolla and observed it was riding low and appeared to be overcapacity,” the complaint states.
Treviño was subsequently pulled over at the intersection of Leo Avenue and Highway 83 in La Joya.
Treviño, unprompted by the agent, blurted out “I was only giving them a ride,” at which time the agent identified the five passengers were all in the country without legal authorization.
“Moments later, a La Joya police officer requested assistance from Border Patrol on a traffic stop he conducted on a white Nissan Sentra with several passengers suspected to be illegally present in the United States,” the complaint states.
Agents identified the driver of the Sentra as Muñoz, who was last seen leaving the area near the river.
“Four additional occupants were determined to be illegally present in the U.S.,” the complaint states.
Treviño — who during his transport back to a Border Patrol station was heard saying he was going to get paid $400 for transporting the undocumented persons — refused to provide a statement without an attorney present.
On the other hand, Muñoz told federal agents that she and Treviño, her fiancé, were cleaning a house that they were planning on renting near Havana, Texas.
“Muñoz stated she observed several (undocumented immigrants) toward the back of the house and moments later, a female approached her asking for a ride,” the complaint states.
Muñoz said she called the owner of the rental property to make him aware of the undocumented persons, but claims the owner instructed her to give them a ride and would pay her $200.
She said she told Treviño what the property owner told her and they both agreed to give the immigrants a ride to a local store.
In total, authorities detained 22 people who did not have authorization to be in the U.S. legally, the complaint states.
One of the men detained, a Guatemalan national, told authorities that he crossed the river on a raft with 19 other people, the court records show.
He said that when he boarded one of the vehicles, a man told him to wipe the sweat off his face, and if they’re pulled over, to say he was just getting a ride.
A decision on whether or not Muñoz will be granted a bond is expected in the next few days.
If the couple should choose to take their respective cases to trial, they could face multiple years in federal prison based on the number of undocumented people they are alleged to have smuggled.