Roma man pleads not guilty in human smuggling case  

Docs: Defendant arrested with undocumented immigrants following crash

The federal courthouse at Bentsen Tower, located on Bicentennial Boulevard in McAllen, is seen in this August 2018 file photo. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — A man who tried to transport several undocumented persons pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing Wednesday, court records show.

Francisco Desiderio Garza pleaded not guilty to all three counts of bringing in and harboring aliens during an arraignment hearing Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Roma man was arrested April 14, when U.S. Border Patrol agents found him driving away from the Rio Grande in Garceño and subsequently determined he had tried to transport five undocumented immigrants.

Moments before his arrest, Border Patrol camera operators observed several people cross the Rio Grande and board a vehicle near Garceño, the criminal complaint against the man stated.

The operators, who maintained visual contact on what was later determined to be Garza’s vehicle, relayed information to agents near the area.

Agents found the grey Dodge pickup truck as it stopped at a red light at the intersection of Highway 83 and FM 649 in Garceño, Texas, the document read.

Border Patrol agents approached the pickup truck, but the driver, later identified as Garza, made an “abrupt” right turn, and headed down an unpaved road in an apparent attempt to evade agents. But his effort was short-lived as he subsequently crashed into a wire fence and tree.

“When agents caught up to the pickup truck, it was already stationary,” the document continued.

Agents saw four people run and camera operators noticed one more running south toward the river.

After a brief search, agents apprehended all five immigrants and found an additional person sitting in the passenger side seat. That person was not undocumented and was not named in the complaint.

After a search of the vehicle, agents discovered two cell phones, which Garza later claimed.

He refused to answer questions during his arrest, but two undocumented women from Mexico identified him as the driver of the vehicle they had just boarded.

Garza, who will remain in custody after being denied bond during an April hearing, is expected back in court July 1 for a final pretrial hearing, records show.