Roma man pleads guilty in connection with Valentine’s Day smuggling attempt

McALLEN — A Roma man, who was not “feeling the love” from Border Patrol agents last month during an attempt to smuggle 10 people into the country illegally on Valentine’s Day was back in court Wednesday.

Adriel Benavides, who allegedly attempted to smuggle a group of 10 people who lacked legal authorization to be in the country, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of bringing in and harboring, records show.

On March 10, Benavides’ court-appointed attorney filed a motion making the court aware of Benavides’ intent to plead guilty to bringing in and harboring charges related to his Feb. 14 arrest.

Benavides pleaded guilty Wednesday to one smuggling charge. In exchange, the government will dismiss the remaining two counts he faces at time of his sentencing.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Benavides, U.S. Border Patrol agents working in the Rio Grande City sector were advised of a potential smuggling attempt by a camera operator.

When Border Patrol agents responded, they observed a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper attempting to pull over a gray pickup truck for speeding.

“The vehicle failed to yield to the trooper’s emergency equipment and traveled through various streets in Roma, Texas before turning southbound on Ebony Street,” the complaint stated. “The vehicle then rammed a private gate approximately 25 yards from the Rio Grande (River) and all subjects exited the vehicle in an attempt to abscond.”

An agent on a boat was able to locate Benavides as he attempted to get away from the DPS trooper and other Border Patrol agents.

“A search was conducted in the vicinity of the pickup truck and 10 total subjects were found to be illegally present in the United States,” the document stated.

Benavides, a U.S. citizen from Roma, declined to provide a statement without an attorney present.

But two from the group of 10 people found to not have legal authorization to remain in the country spoke with agents and testified as material witnesses in Benavides’ prosecution.

The first witness, a Guatemalan man, who identified Benavides as the driver who picked him up near the river, said almost immediately after entering Benavides’ truck, he heard sirens and was scared because he was not wearing a seatbelt.

The second man, a Mexican national, said he paid $3,000 to be smuggled to Houston. He identified Benavides as the “heavy-set” man who drove erratically after hearing the police sirens.

Benavides, 25, faces between two and 10 years in prison if convicted of the smuggling charges.

He is expected back before the court for sentencing on June 1, records show.