South Texas federal grand jury charges tractor trailer driver with transporting illegal aliens for financial gain resulting in death
SAN ANTONIO — A South Texas federal grand jury indicted the tractor trailer driver Wednesday for his role in a smuggling operation which resulted in the deaths of 10 illegal aliens on July 23.
This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr., Western District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden with U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio.
James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, faces the following charges in the five-count indictment:
- one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain resulting in death;
- one count of transporting illegal aliens resulting in death;
- one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy;
- one count of transporting illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy; and,
- one count of possessing a firearm by a convicted felon.
Upon conviction of the conspiracy and transportation-resulting-in-death charges, Bradley faces up to life imprisonment or death. Upon conviction of the conspiracy and transportation-resulting-in-serious-bodily-injury charges, Bradley faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Upon conviction of the felon-in-possession charge, Bradley faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
According to court documents, San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officers responded to a call at the Wal-Mart store located at 8538 Interstate 35 in San Antonio shortly after midnight on Sunday, July 23. An officer encountered a tractor-trailer behind the store, finding a number of people standing and lying in the rear of the trailer, and the driver, Bradley, in the cab. At the scene, law enforcement officers discovered 39 illegal aliens. According to court records, the trailer contained an estimated 70 to 200 illegal aliens during transport. They also described differing fees for being transported. Authorities also recovered a .38-caliber pistol from inside the cab of the tractor-trailer. Bradley, who was arrested at the scene, remains in federal custody.
Of the 39 illegal aliens discovered, 10 died, two remain hospitalized, 22 are in federal custody charged as material witnesses; five individuals (four juveniles and one adult) have since been released from the hospital. The four juveniles are currently under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The adult is pending administrative processing through immigration court.
Count 3 of the indictment contains the names of the following eight males who died July 23 (except as noted) as a result of this incident; all are from Mexico, except as noted:
- Ruben Hernandez-Vargas, 27;
- Osbaldo Rodriguez-Cerda, 21;
- Frank Fuentes-Gonzalez, age 18, of Guatemala;
- Jorge Reyes-Noveron, 26;
- ** Mariano Lopez-Cano, age unknown;
- Jose Rodriguez-Aspeitia, 36;
- Benjamin Martinez-Arredondo, 37; and
- ** Ricardo Martinez-Esparza, 24, died July 24, 2017.
** indicates individual died after being transported to local hospital
The identities of the remaining two deceased are not being released. One, who is a juvenile, has been identified. The other, an adult, has yet to be identified.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christina Playton and Matthew Lathrop, Western District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.gov)