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Texas DPS officers continue to arrest human smugglers

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(The Center Square) – Texas Department of Public Safety troopers continue to apprehend human smugglers at the border. The latest was of two women from Tennessee who drove to Uvalde County, Texas, attempting to smuggle illegal foreign nationals from the border at a meet-up location on a private ranch.

DPS troopers on May 11 observed a driver of a Buick Encore entering a ranch in Uvalde County without the owner’s permission, Lt. Christ Olivarez said in a statement posted on social media. The troopers observed that two illegal foreign nationals were then picked up on the property and hid inside the vehicle.

When the troopers pulled up to the property, they asked the driver where she and her passenger were from. They answered, “Tennessee.”

The women, Ana Luna, from Lebanon, Tennessee, and Erika Melgar, from La Vergne, Tennessee, were arrested and charged with smuggling of persons and criminal trespass. Luna told the troopers they were told they would be paid $2,000 to smuggle the men they never met and picked up in their vehicle, Olivarez said.

The troopers also arrested and charged both illegal foreign nationals with criminal trespass. One had been hiding under the rear floorboard and the other underneath luggage in the hatch area of the vehicle.

𝐓𝐗 𝐃𝐏𝐒 𝐀𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐅𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐞 𝐒𝐦𝐮𝐠𝐠𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐓𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐑𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐒𝐦𝐮𝐠𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐈𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐥 𝐈𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬5/11/24: @TxDPS Troopers observed a Buick Encore entering a ranch in Uvalde County without the… pic.twitter.com/E9UZNSDYon— Chris Olivarez (@LtChrisOlivarez) May 14, 2024

On May 10, another human smuggler using a stolen truck was arrested in Val Verde County after causing serious property damage in his attempt to evade capture.

The alleged smuggler, Carlos Lombardich-Villalobos from Lockhart, Texas, drove through multiple intersections and eventually drove through a ranch fence, crashed into a tree, and he and multiple illegal foreign nationals bailed out of the vehicle and fled on foot, authorities said.

Texas DPS aircraft assisted troopers on the ground to locate Villalobos. Officials have explained their goal is to catch the smuggler. In this case, they did, and charged him with smuggling of persons, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, deadly conduct, evading arrest, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

They also learned that the Dodge Ram he crashed was stolen out of Bastrop, Texas.

The troopers also apprehended six illegal foreign nationals and referred them to Border Patrol.

#NEW: A smuggler in a stolen truck evades from @TxDPS, drives through a ranch fence, crashing into a tree in Val Verde County. 5/10: The smuggler, Carlos Lombardich-Villalobos from Lockhart, Texas, recklessly drove through multiple intersections, attempting to evade Troopers.… pic.twitter.com/sNhDRiHkA4— Chris Olivarez (@LtChrisOlivarez) May 11, 2024

In one week, ending May 10, DPS officers also made 197 criminal trespass arrests in Maverick County alone.

Also in Maverick County, they pursued and captured a Venezuelan national illegally in the country driving a stolen vehicle from San Antonio. He was wanted for murder in the Virgin Islands.

In Hidalgo County, they continued to apprehend human smugglers although some made it back to Mexico paddling across the Rio Grande River in an inflatable raft.

In Webb County, they continued to pursue smugglers and those bailing out of vehicles, running through residential neighborhoods to avoid being caught.

In one recent pursuit, troopers followed a driver of a Chevrolet Silverado on a high-speed chase on I-35. The driver, a Hispanic male from Laredo, Texas, drove against traffic attempting to evade troopers. Eventually, he pulled over to the side of the road and he and Mexican nationals he picked up after illegally entering the country all bailed out of the vehicle. They all ran in different directions, including towards a local neighborhood, authorities said.

U.S. Border Patrol agents assisted in locating and apprehending seven Mexicans in the country illegally. Hernandez was arrested and charged with smuggling of persons and evading arrest.

High-speech vehicle pursuits are often dangerous and can endanger the lives of those living and working in residential neighborhoods or driving on highways or streets when smugglers drive into oncoming traffic. Often times the troopers have no idea if the driver is a smuggler or what kind of criminal history they have, officials have explained to The Center Square. They pursue them as part of their commitment to Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, they say.

Since he launched OLS three years ago, OLS officers have apprehended more than 510,600 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 42,500 criminal arrests, with more than 37,700 felony charges reported, according to the latest data from the governor’s office.