Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Smugglers Using Airplanes to Transport Human Cargo (with video)

WESLACO – Local law enforcement said human smugglers are getting paid more money to take their human cargo into other parts of the country by airplane.

Last Thursday, Border Patrol and DPS were called to look into a report of human smuggling activity at McCreery Aviation in McAllen. An alleged smuggler reportedly chartered a plane at the airport to avoid inspection sites.

Further investigation led to the arrest of Martin Zavala Flores of Elsa. He reportedly chartered a Cessna to fly three people in the U.S. illegally to Houston.

A federal criminal complaint states that Zavala appeared agitated and anxious, and was seen soliciting money from the individuals. Those individuals were all carrying fraudulent state of Texas ID cards.

Former Aviation Director for Mid Valley Airport George Garrett said he has called in federal authorities in many occasions for suspicion of human smuggling.

“We probably were part of or helped affect something like 50 arrests. So, it’s something that’s been going on in the Valley for a considerable amount of time,” said the retired airport director. “Not only is this airport impacted by it, but McAllen is impacted by it, Brownsville is impacted by it and so is Harlingen and even Edinburg.”

Garrett said human smugglers prefer using airports and chartering an airplane to avoid detection at checkpoints and other inspection sites. He said some of the smaller ones lack security which makes it easier for them to carry out this illegal activity.

“It gets passed all of the inspection sites northbound on the highways. You land in an airport up north and get out of the airplane. There’s nobody there to check you,” he said. “So it’s a way to get around all the check points and the checks that go in airports.”

Garrett said in many cases, the vigilance of airport staff and others  lead to arrest of human smugglers and the people they’re trying to sneak in.

“If you report it and people start getting apprehended, that means you’re also going to get the coyote or whatever person that’s helping facilitate the movement of illegals,” he said.

The retired airport director said airport smuggling is not cheap. He said a trip from McAllen to Houston could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. That includes fees for the smuggler, the pilot and to charter a plane.

Four people were taken into custody in last Thursday’s incident. The human smuggler was charged with illegal entry.

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