Human smuggling attempt at checkpoint leads to stash house

The discovery of 40 immigrants inside a trailer led authorities to a stash house in south Laredo with an additional 22 immigrants, according to an arrest affidavit filed on Oct. 5.

A blue tractor hauling a white trailer arrived on Oct. 1 at the U.S. 83 checkpoint. The driver, later identified as Eloy Martinez-Carranza, claimed to be a Mexican citizen with a valid employment authorization card. During his immigration inspection, a K-9 unit allegedly alerted to the presence of people or narcotics within the trailer.

Agents instructed Martinez-Carranza to drive to the secondary area for further inspection. There, agents removed the seal that secured the trailer doors and discovered 40 people who were determined to be immigrants who were illegally present in the country, according to court documents. Agents allegedly recorded the temperature inside the trailer as 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

Homeland Security Investigations special agents responded to investigate the smuggling attempt. Martinez-Carranza allegedly agreed to talk to special agents without an attorney present. Martinez-Carranza stated that a man picked him up at the hotel he was staying in Laredo and drove him to the location of the tractor-trailer, which was located behind the Target on Interstate 35.

“Martinez-Carranza stated the male gave him one $1,200 for payment and diesel and informed him the paperwork for the shipment was in the tractor. Martinez-Carranza stated he noticed the trailer had a seal securing the doors, so he did not check the contents of the trailer,” states the affidavit.

Martinez-Carranza stated he was told he would be delivering car parts. But authorities found no information on the company Matinez-Carranza claimed he was working for. He was arrested and charged with transport, attempt to transport and conspire to transport the immigrants.

‘Pistolero’

An immigrant held as a material witness in the case stated that he was kept at a home in the 3000 block of Saltillo Street. The immigrant further stated that the house was full of immigrants. He identified Jose Maria Ramirez, also known as “El Chema,” as the person watching over the stash house.

The immigrant added that Ramirez had a tattoo on his right forearm that spelled “PISTOLERO,” according to court documents.

Authorities set up surveillance at the home and observed a tan-colored van leaving the home. Authorities identified Ramirez as the driver following a traffic stop. Court documents state that Ramirez was on federal probation for human smuggling.

Ramirez did not allow agents to search the suspected stash house on Saltillo. HSI special agents obtained a search warrant and encountered 22 immigrants.

Ramirez was arrested and charged with conceal, harbor or shield from detection a group of immigrants.

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