HOUSTON - Authorities have made more arrests in their investigation
of a smuggling operation that packed dozens of illegal immigrants
into a sweltering trailer last week, resulting in the deaths of 19
individuals, federal prosecutors said Monday.
No other details were immediately available but officials planned to
hold a news conference Monday afternoon.
The driver of the truck, Tyrone Williams, 32, of Schenectady, N.Y.,
was arrested last Wednesday in Houston, hours after 17 people were
found dead in and around a trailer parked at a truck stop near
Victoria, more than 100 miles southeast of Houston. Two people later
died after being hospitalized. The trailer had been packed with
between 70 and 100 men, women and children from Mexico and Central
"We have been remarkably successful (in the investigation) based on
good policework and information provided by the surviving victims of
this," Michael Shelby, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of
Texas, told Houston television station KRIV Monday morning.
Investigators believe the smuggling operation is part of a larger
Shelby credited assistance by Mexican consul general Eduardo Ibarrola
for helping convince the 49 surviving immigrants to cooperate by
giving information about the dead and those who assembled the group
in South Texas and arranged for the truck trip.
Court documents say Williams told authorities two men paid him $2,500
to transport 16 illegal immigrants from the Mexican border near
Harlingen in far South Texas. He claimed he didn't watch as they were
loaded into his trailer Tuesday night. He also told authorities that
after pulling over in Victoria and opening the doors and discovering
the dead and dying immigrants, he unhitched the trailer and drove to
According to an affidavit by a federal immigration agent, Williams at
first claimed he was hauling an empty trailer but later changed his
story. His attorney, former Houston congressman Craig Washington,
said last week he was looking into whether Williams was properly
advised of his rights and why he was questioned in a cold room
without anything to offer him warmth.
Williams was charged last week with conspiracy to smuggle, transport
and conceal illegal immigrants. He was scheduled to appear at a bond
and detention hearing before a U.S. magistrate in Houston Tuesday
The surviving immigrants are in the custody of the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are helping authorities with
the investigation. Five survivors remained hospitalized in Victoria.
Initial autopsy reports show the immigrants who died succumbed to
dehydration, hyperthermia and suffocation.
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Authorities said an additional 30 to 50 survivors were believed to
have fled the trailer.