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A suspect believed responsible for the illegal transport of undocumented immigrants has been formally charged with 84 felony counts in the case after being arrested last week beside a dump truck filled with Guatemalan and Mexican nationals in La Salle County.
The arrest came after 38-year-old Robert Flores Jr. was identified by Texas state troopers as the driver of the vehicle that had circumvented the US Border Patrol checkpoint near Encinal on IH-35 Tuesday morning, October 25, and traveled north towards Cotulla. Troopers of the Department of Public Safety Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division were conducting routine inspections of freight transport at the time and halted the dump truck at the interstate rest area near Milemarker 59 shortly after 8 a.m.
The suspect’s identity was confirmed in a prepared statement from the state agency Wednesday, Oct. 26. The DPS statement also indicated that an investigation had revealed Flores may have used a private ranch road to avoid detection at the checkpoint on the interstate.
Flores was remanded into custody in the La Salle County Jail.
Officers assisting in the case included locally based state troopers, deputies of the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office and agents of the US Border Patrol. The troopers carrying out commercial vehicle inspections last week were working in the Operation Lone Star program, which is endorsed by the state government and pays the salaries of law enforcement agents working in border security.
Reports from the scene of the traffic stop indicated that the undocumented immigrants had been packed into the cargo area of a commercial dump truck and that some attempted to evade capture by fleeing the scene on foot.
“During the stop, numerous individuals absconded from the truck’s cargo area into the brush,” the statement read.
Earlier reports that 85 people had been found in the truck were corrected in the DPS statement Wednesday to 84, but the statement did not confirm that all those fleeing the scene had been caught.
DPS spokesman Sgt. Erick Estrada said on Tuesday last week that Border Patrol agents were able to round up those who had succeeded in climbing out of the truck. He added that the majority of the immigrants remaining in the vehicle had been packed so tightly together that they were limited in their movement.
Third-degree felony charges of human smuggling are filed in cases of adults being transported illegally. The charges are enhanced to second-degree felonies in the case of minors being smuggled.
The DPS indicated last week that its officers believe a number of those found in the dump truck were under the age of 18. All of those captured have since been referred to the US Border Patrol.