Traffic stop leads Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to human smuggling operation
SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — A traffic stop led Sheriff’s deputies to nearly 40 illegal immigrants in a home in Southern Bexar County.
Sheriff’s Javier Salazar said deputies were making traffic stop in an area that is the center of an ongoing investigation related to violent crime, trafficking activity and stolen vehicles.
Deputies reportedly pulled a vehicle over where the driver of the vehicle immediately fled, leaving one man and two teenage female passengers in the car. Salazar said the two girls, ages 16 and 18, were from Mexico and the man, who was armed with a knife, was in possession of their identification cards.
Both of the girls told deputies they believed they were being transported to Dallas to be given to relatives.
“I tend to think that these smugglers had other plans for these young ladies, whether they knew it or not,” Salazar said.
The driver of the vehicle that fled was identified as Christopher Abrego, 24.
Salazar said a woman was pulled over a short time later that was attempting to pick Abrego up after he fled from deputies. The woman was identified as 50-year-old Augustina Jean Cabrera, known to Bexar County deputies after she illegally owned a tiger that was named Elsa. Elsa the Tiger was confiscated from Cabrera after the February 2021 winter storm.
Salazar said that Cabrera has an active warrant out for her animal cruelty arrest related to Elsa the Tiger and that Abrego is wanted on the same charge.
Deputies then came to a property nearby and discovered nearly 40 undocumented individuals that were waiting to be transported elsewhere.
Salazar said that although most had arrived on a staggered schedule, most had not eaten in six days. The Sheriff said deputies pooled their money and bought the group food before federal officials came to transport them for further questioning.
The property reportedly has three houses and a workshop. Deputies found the group of mostly young men in one of the homes. The workshop has at least three stolen vehicles that are gutted, Salazar said. Deputies are working to get a search warrant for the second home on the property.
Salazar said many of the individuals were complaining about feet injuries and that one of the three women found at the house had an infected abscess on one of her feet. These feet injuries, along with some other clues, like camouflage clothing and carpet glued to the bottom of shoes, are common among people being smuggled.
No other injuries were reported.
“It’s just a scary situation no matter how you look at it,” Salazar said. “The fact that we saved a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old who were absolutely going to be trafficked… that today makes it all worth it.”