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Press Release

Several charged in deadly alien smuggling ring

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A total of six people have been arrested on charges of alien smuggling which resulted in the death of eight, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Those charged and taken into custody over the last three days include Juan Manuel Tena, 39, Pharr; Julia Isairis Torres, 37, Israel Torres Jr., 33, Erasmo Garcia III, 21, and Alexis Rafael Adorno, all of Roma; and Jose Refugio Torres, 26, Austin.

The 11-count indictment was returned Jan. 10 and unsealed upon the arrests this week.

According to the indictment, Tena was the alleged leader of the alien smuggling ring and coordinated a network of co-conspirators throughout the Southern District of Texas. Tena and his co-conspirators allegedly conspired to transport illegal aliens from the Rio Grande Valley to destinations within the United States.

As a result of that conspiracy, a total of eight aliens were killed and two others seriously injured, according to the charges.

The indictment alleges all engaged in a conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death and committed multiple counts of transporting illegal aliens resulting in death.

Tena, Julia Torres, Israel Torres, Jose Torres and Garcia are all charged with the attempted smuggling of illegal aliens in March 2019 by motor vehicle from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston. The charges allege that during the failed attempt, a vehicle rolled over and caused the deaths of four non-U.S. citizens with serious injuries to one other.

The indictment also charges Tena along with Adorno with the attempted smuggling of illegal aliens in February 2022 by watercraft from South Padre Island to the Corpus Christi area. The watercraft allegedly capsized, four illegal aliens were killed and another seriously injured.

All face up to life in prison a possible $250,000 maximum fine for the conspiracy and up to 20 years for each count of transporting illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury.

The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture identifying several properties allegedly purchased with illegal proceeds of criminal activity.

The arrests came as part of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Operation Justice for All.

HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol; Coast Guard; Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations; police departments in Port Mansfield and South Padre Island; Texas Rangers; Texas Game Wardens; sheriff’s offices in Kenedy, Duval and Willacy Counties; and the Willacy County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edgardo J. Rodriguez and David A. Lindenmuth are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated February 3, 2023

Human Smuggling