U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested over 30 people in connection to a large Mexico-U.S. alien smuggling ring Tuesday.
ICE and HSI agents began their arrests Monday night after a nine-court federal grand jury indictment was unsealed, revealing the names of 20 people that are believed to have major ties to the smuggling organization.
"As of right now, we have done a very good job at identifying and arresting the main leaders of that organization here in San Antonio. Obviously, the leader of the organization is in Mexico and he is not under arrest. He is under indictment, and we'll be doing everything that we can to work with our counterparts in Mexico to see what we can do to bring that individual to justice," said Jerry Robinette, a special agent in charge of the HSI Office of Investigations in San Antonio.
ICE and HSI agents believe the leader, Fernando Martinez-Magana, has connections to dangerous, Mexican drug cartel, The Los Zetas. He also operates under three additional pseudonyms: Dieciséis, Zeta 16, and Don Fernando.
The fact that the leader of this organization is a member of The Los Zetas has led agents to recognize the alien smuggling as a side business of the cartel; something Border Patrol, ICE, and HSI agents have long suspected.
Special Agent Robinette said this investigation was a unique one, because they were able to target the Mexican side of the smuggling organization.
"In other words, those individuals who are controlling the alien smuggling from the Mexican side of the border, in contrast to the representatives of that organization who are responsible for what takes place on the domestic side of this country."
Tuesday afternoon, agents had already arrested 30 individuals, 17 of which were not on the indictment, and 13 of which were.
Special Agent Robinette says this is most likely due to an overlapping affect, as it is common practice for smuggling operations to feed off each other and cooperate over organizational lines.
"The results today will have an impact on an organization which has endangered its human cargo and has shown very little restraint as to what extremes they will go to make a profit," said Special Agent Robinette. " HSI strongly discourages and warns people from becoming a victim and attempting to illegally enter the Unites States. Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip."
Agents also seized over $30,000 in alien smuggling proceeds and recovered several stolen cars.
ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol will continue to work together to prevent the reorganization of this alien trafficking organization.