Deputies locate people who fled after traffic stop
By NARDA PEREZ and TAYLOR TOMPKINS - NPEREZ@VICAD.COM and TTOMPKINS @VICAD.COM
July 11, 2016 at 11:06 p.m.
Updated July 12, 2016 at 6 a.m.
After an unsuccessful search earlier in the day, Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor found what he was looking for in the pastures near Farm-to-Market Road 447 and Lower Mission Valley Road.
Nine people suspected of entering the country illegally were found on private land around 6 p.m. Monday.
Earlier in the day around 10:15 a.m., deputies responded to tips that a man was dropping off people from a sport utility vehicle on private land in the area, said Chief Deputy Roy Boyd.
A man, believed to be the SUV's driver, was taken into custody after being found filling up his car with gasoline at a nearby station. He was from Honduras.
On his way out to patrol the area again in the late afternoon, O'Connor saw a man in a pickup truck picking up a group of people who were in the brush, Boyd said.
"The sheriff drove up just in time to see the people coming out to load up in their truck and upon seeing the sheriff, they took off running back in the brush," Boyd said.
The sheriff stopped a Houston man who was charged with trafficking.
Victoria County deputies, Department of Public Safety troopers, representatives from the Office of Emergency Management and Border Patrol agents were soon on the scene, assisting in a search for the people who had fled.
The nine people, including a 16-year-old boy, were found a short distance down the road after they had crossed under a bridge, Boyd said.
The arrests made were a part of a transnational human trafficking operation, Boyd said.
"Some of these folks told us already that they had not prepaid for their journey to America and that they would pay when they got to Houston, which means they're slaves. When they get there, they will be indentured servants for the next five to eight years paying off that cartel," Boyd said.
The immigrants will be turned over to the Border Patrol, who will process them.
There is no evidence that this area has been used for human trafficking regularly, Boyd said.
"This might have been a place that they were either trying out or just that they're moving around to different areas and this was a fresh spot," Boyd said.
Boyd said the familiarity with other law enforcement agencies helped with the sheriff office's search.
"The connectivity that we have with these other agencies really pays dividends in times like this because we're able to bring that manpower to bear in our effort to ensure that we find these folks," Boyd said.
Both men arrested will face state trafficking charges. The one arrested Monday morning will also face resisting arrest charges.