Humberto Ramirez-Santos

Humberto Ramirez-Santos

Authorities are searching for a 48-year-old Mexican man who helped smuggle immigrants in sealed tractor-trailers after the man missed a court date in Victoria.

Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Humberto Ramirez-Santos on a charge of failure to appear, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. He failed to make a scheduled court appearance in Victoria for sentencing on Oct. 2.

Ramirez-Santos pleaded guilty July 8 to bringing in and harboring aliens.

He was accused of participating in a smuggling organization that transported immigrants from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. The immigrants transported included toddlers and elderly although most were young adults.

“At the time of his plea, the court heard that smuggling trips were taken every week and the total number of aliens transported are incalculable,” the news release states.

Members of the smuggling organization used a variety of methods to move immigrants through South Texas undetected, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Co-conspirators drove cars and trucks to locations south of Border Patrol checkpoints. There, they were guided through South Texas ranches to avoid detection,” the news release states. “They also used Penske trucks and tractor-trailers to smuggle illegal aliens through various checkpoints.”

Members of the smuggling organization also sometimes loaded immigrants into tractor-trailers parked at truck stops, breaking the seals of temperature-controlled containers, according to the release. Members of the organization would then follow the trailers north of border checkpoints where the immigrants would be later retrieved.

“The drivers would be unaware of their human cargo and were potentially exposed to criminal liability,” the release states. “The aliens would then be transported in closed Penske trucks to Houston.”

Ramirez-Santos was accused of providing immigrants by using his contacts in Mexico, according to the release. He also taught young members of the organization to perform counter-surveillance and move the immigrants.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division, Border Patrol and the Houston Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Hubert Booth is prosecuting the case.

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.

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Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.

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