Federal authorities have accused a third person in the case of a tractor-trailer packed with 86 undocumented immigrants hidden behind pallets of moldy, rotten avocados discovered near Raymondville last May.
Roger Edgardo Garcia-Brizuela, aka Mono, appeared before a Houston magistrate judge Thursday and was ordered transported to Brownsville for arraignment. Authorities arrested Garcia-Brizuela on Feb. 8 and charged him with harboring, concealing or shielding from detection undocumented immigrants by transportation, court records reflect.
On May 22, 2018, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper pulled over a tractor-trailer driven by Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, a Cuban national from Miami, on I-69 in Willacy County for failing to maintain a single lane. After the traffic stop, some of the undocumented immigrants busted through the trailer’s roof and photos released by Border Patrol showed people standing on top of the trailers.
Authorities also arrested Danay Rego-Plasencia, a Cuban national from Houston, who federal authorities say was acting as a scout for Rodriguez and was following the trailer. Authorities had previously seen the pair talking at a Stripes in Raymondville before the traffic stop, court documents show.
At the time, Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence called the bust one of the largest vehicle apprehensions he had ever seen and during a press conference with Border Patrol and DPS, officials said they were acting on the tip of a concerned citizen reporting human cargo.
However, the complaint against Garcia-Brizuela states that investigators had been following the tractor-trailer from near Edinburg after a law enforcement source reported seeing silver packages being loaded into the tractor-trailer.
During the investigation, Rodriguez identified Garcia-Brizuela as the coordinator of the smuggling scheme, whom he met through Rego-Plasencia.
Rodriguez said the May 22, 2018, smuggling attempt wasn’t his first on behalf of Garcia-Brizuela.
According to the criminal complaint, Rodriguez said that he was paid $45,000 after successfully smuggling more than 20 people on May 1, 2018, at $2,000 per person. The May 22, 2018, attempt would have netted him much more: $215,000 at $2,500 per person, court documents indicate.
All he had to do was successfully evade law enforcement by driving from Edinburg to and through the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint and on to Houston, according to the criminal complaint.
Rodriguez claims Garcia-Brizuela made all the arrangements and cellphone records show 49 phone calls between both men prior to May 1 and May 22, 2018, court records indicate.
The complaint was sealed until his arrest. Court records don’t reflect the nature of his arrest, other than that he was in Houston. He is being held pending trial or resolution of his case.
Rodriguez, who was facing an eight-count indictment, is also in detention pending the resolution of his case. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants and to bringing unauthorized immigrants into the United States on July 24, 2018, court records show.
He is scheduled for sentencing on March 7 and in a written plea agreement the government will recommend the low end of the sentencing guidelines. He faces a maximum of ten years on each count, according to the plea agreement.
Rego-Plasencia has pleaded not guilty to the eight-count indictment and is scheduled for jury selection on March 3. She is free on bond, court records indicate.