On Wednesday, two men were indicted on federal charges in the deaths of 53 migrants who died in the rear of a tractor-trailer that was abandoned in an underdeveloped area of San Antonio last month.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, received indictments from a grand jury that could result in life in prison or the death penalty. The two men had previously been charged but were not facing the death penalty.
The gruesome event from June 27 is believed to be one of the most fatal human smuggling cases in modern U.S. history.
San Antonio officials reported that 50 adults and three children died inside the back of an 18-wheeler.
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The U.S. attorney’s office said that Zamorano and Martinez were indicted on conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death, and other counts.
Prosecutors said those two counts carry up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Zamorano, who was reportedly seen in surveillance video at an immigration checkpoint, matched the description and was wearing the same clothes as the driver of the vehicle carrying the migrants.
According to court documents, he was allegedly seen hiding in the brush and was arrested by San Antonio police, who responded to the incident.
Martinez’s phone indicated he communicated with Zamorano, asking where he was, and a confidential informant allegedly told investigators that Martinez admitted being involved. The informant said that he identified the driver as “Homer,” according to a criminal complaint.
According to the criminal complaint, Martinez “said the driver was unaware the air conditioning unit stopped working and was the reason why the individuals died.”
Martinez’s lawyer, Michael Gross, told the San Antonio Express-News that he believes his client was intimidated into talking to agents about the incident. He noted that his client cannot read or write.
Two Texas men were indicted on federal charges for their roles in the deaths of 53 people in what officials have called the deadliest migrant smuggling case in U.S. history. https://t.co/LxR7PZR0T3
— KSAT 12 (@ksatnews) July 21, 2022
Aside from the primary charges, both men were indicted on one count each of conspiracy and transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, prosecutors said. Those counts can carry up to 20 years in prison each.