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Man Who Crashed Truck Carrying Undocumented Immigrants After Police Chase Charged With Transportation of Illegal Aliens

An Austin man who crashed a truck full of undocumented immigrants following a high-speed police chase has been federally charged, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah.

Adrian Vargas-Ladinos, 20, was arrested on May 15, charged via criminal complaint with transportation of illegal aliens. He will make his appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Parker on May 18.

According to the complaint, a police officer stopped Mr. Vargas-Ladinos for speeding in Sutton County, Texas on May 15. During the stop, the officer called for backup, at which point Mr. Vargas-Ladinos allegedly sped away, leading police on a chase that lasted almost eight minutes.

He crossed several medians before crashing the truck, causing it to roll over with passengers still in both the cab and bed.

Ten of the passengers – including one woman who was rushed to the ICU with head injuries and two men who were hospitalized with serious injures – were identified as citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in the United States unlawfully. The hospitalized passengers were treated and have been stabilized.

Mr. Vargas-Ladinos initially claimed he was merely helping a few immigrants he had encountered in Eagle Pass, Texas during a visit to a friend. He told investigators he could not recall the friend’s name.

He later admitted, however, that a smuggler offered to pay him $25,000 to transport undocumented immigrants to Austin, Texas. A search of his cell phone allegedly confirmed that he was involved in human smuggling.

Mr. Vargas-Ladinos allegedly told law enforcement that based on directions provided by the smuggler, he drove to an abandoned home in Eagle Pass, honked the horn, and allowed the undocumented immigrants into his truck. He then allegedly drove them around a Border Patrol checkpoint in Eagle Pass.

One of his undocumented passengers told law enforcement that when Mr. Vargas-Ladinos realized he was being pulled over, he told the immigrants that he was going to bail out of the vehicle. Two passengers told law enforcement that they were scared during the police chase.

Mr. Vargas-Ladinos allegedly admitted to law enforcement he felt sorry for the undocumented immigrants who were hurt during the crash, but stated that he told them to run away so that they could get to Austin and he could get paid.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation of wrongdoing, not evidence. Like all defendants, Mr. Vargas-Ladinos is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the transportation charge. He has also been charged by Sutton County with evading arrest, which carries a penalty of 10 years in state prison.

Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs & Border Protection conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Sonora Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Redd is prosecuting the case.