12 rescued from sweltering cargo bay of truck in apparent human smuggling operation

KTRK logo
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
12 rescued from sweltering cargo bay of truck in apparent human smuggling operation
EMBED <>More Videos

12 rescued from sweltering cargo bay of truck in apparent human smuggling operation

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two women charged with human smuggling are expected to return to court tomorrow.

Priscila Perez Beltran, 21, and Adela Alvarez, 26, are being held on a $100,000 bond after a dozen people were found stuffed inside a sweltering hot box truck on Sunday.

A third suspect, Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, was also charged with human smuggling, but is being held on a $300,000 bond.

According to investigators, a ledger was found on the three suspects filled with the nicknames of the 12 people being smuggled, including a 16-year-old girl.

Next to their names were dollar amounts. Alvarez admitted in court the ledger was hers, and for the judge, that was evidence enough to charge the suspects.

Meanwhile, we are learning new details on how a Houston police officer's quick thinking may have saved the people who were found inside the truck.

Officer Chris Meade was on patrol Sunday morning when he spotted a suspicious box truck parked in a strip center parking lot.

He stopped to investigate and found 12 people, including a 16-year-old girl, inside the sweltering truck.

They were all undocumented immigrants who'd paid for illegal transport into Texas from various Latin American countries. Prosecutors say they were in the truck for 12 hours with no food and little water.

Now Priscila Perez Beltran, 21, Adela Alvarez, 26, and Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, have all been charged with human smuggling. Investigators tell ABC13 there is the possibility of more suspects who have not yet been caught.

The Penske rental truck was in the parking lot of a strip center on Harwin in southwest Houston, and held 10 men, one woman and the girl.

Authorities say they are recovering and remain in custody. The immigrants were closed up inside, where temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees. They were soaked in sweat, exhausted, and had been banging on the walls of the truck for hours for someone to let them out.

"There is no good season for human trafficking, but summer time in Houston has to be the worst," Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg said. "Thirty more minutes and this could have been a dozen homicide cases."

The charges are being enhanced due to the substantial likelihood of bodily injury or death faced by those who were smuggled, according to prosecutors. The defendants face two to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

How America's deadliest smuggling incident unfolded in Victoria, Texas

Report a typo to the ABC13 staff