Four men were indicted Wednesday in connection to the deadliest known smuggling attempt in US history, where 53 migrants died after the tractor-trailer they were in was found abandoned in sweltering Texas heat.
The semitruck .
All of the men indicted have previously been charged by prosecutors. The alleged driver of the truck, Homero Zamorano Jr, 46, and his co-defendant, Christian Martinez, 28, could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
The two Americans face a slew of charges, including conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants resulting in death and serious bodily injury.
Authorities connected Zamorano and Martinez to the operation through surveillance footage and phone communications obtained in a search warrant. Officials allege that Zamorano abandoned the semitruck on the side of a remote road and fled when bystanders heard cries for help coming from the back of the truck.
Zamorano allegedly pretended to be one of the victims, and was found by police hiding in a nearby bush. He was arrested at the scene.
Two men from Mexico also face charges stemming from the deadly incident.
Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna Bilbao, 48, have been charged with one count each of possession of a firearm while unlawfully present in the US.
Each could face up to 10 years in prison.
D’Luna-Mendez and D’Luna-Bilbao were both charged the day the migrants were discovered after officers conducted surveillance on the home where the license plate on the truck was registered.
Both men are Mexican nationals living in the US illegally, according to officials.
The truck had been carrying migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador when it was discovered abandoned in a remote area of San Antonio, not far from the US-Mexico border.
Temperatures that day were as high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39C). When police arrived they found piles of bodies inside the truck, most hot to the touch due to the extreme heat.
Authorities found no signs of working air conditioning inside the truck or evidence of the passengers having any water.
In addition to the 53 people who died, about a dozen others were hospitalized with heat-related illnesses.
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