Feds charge two Texas men in San Antonio smuggling attempt in which 53 died in tractor-trailer

If convicted, the pair may be eligible for the death penalty

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 7:15pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged two Texas residents in connection to a botched migrant smuggling incident in June in which 53 died while sealed inside an abandon tractor-trailer.

Palestine, Texas, natives Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, each face several charges in the incident including the transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death and conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, according to a Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The charges follow a joint investigation by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol Laredo Sector and local law enforcement.

If convicted, the pair may be eligible for the death penalty, though the prosecution has not yet decided whether to seek such punishment.

Security footage identified Zamorano as the driver of the truck when it passed through an immigration checkpoint, while cell phone records revealed Martinez to be an accomplice.

A total of 50 adults and three children died during the smuggling operation, marking one of the deadliest human trafficking incidents in recent history. 

ICE says a total 64 people illegally entered the U.S. in the back of a tractor-trailer but were sealed inside with no supplies and left to die after crossing the border.

Authorities in late June arrested two Mexican nationals in connection to the tragedy. Juan Francisco D'Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D'Luna-Mendez each face charges of possessing firearms while illegally residing in the U.S.