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Feds: Trucks resembling those of Arizona border-wall contractors used for smuggling

Border-wall contractors (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)

Two pickup trucks disguised to look like they belonged at construction sites for the border wall near Douglas actually were part of a smuggling effort, federal officials say.

After weeks of suspicious activity, Border Patrol agents tracked down two F-250 pickup trucks bearing logos of the contractor building the border wall. Inside, agents found 19 migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally, according to a criminal complaint filed April 3 in federal court in Tucson.

One of the drivers, Gerardo Siqueiros Molina, a 34-year-old Mexican citizen, was arrested on April 1 and now faces human-smuggling charges. The second driver ran back into Mexico and was not arrested.

In the month before the incident, agents had seen a similar truck drive to the border and pick up what appeared to be a group of four migrants who had just crossed the border illegally. The truck, outfitted with an orange flag used by legitimate contractors, then headed to Douglas. The truck returned to the border, where a group of people in Mexico moved the vehicle barriers along the borderline and the truck drove into Mexico, according to the complaint.

Later in March, an employee with the contractor informed the Border Patrol that 10 people had crossed the border and got into a black pickup truck. Agents found the truck parked in the contractor’s parking lot with seven people inside who agents determined had crossed the border illegally.

The driver told agents he had been instructed to drive the truck toward Douglas at the same time as legitimate traffic from the construction site began to head toward Douglas, according to the complaint.

Agents noticed that the suspect vehicles were older model pickup trucks and contacted the contractor, who said only newer model trucks were being used near Douglas.

The contractor building the wall near Douglas is Southwest Valley Constructors. Court records do not indicate any allegation of wrongdoing by the contractor.

On April 1, agents decided to follow two of the trucks. One of the trucks failed to yield to agents. Agents said the truck was driven by Siqueiros, who continued through Douglas at a slow speed and followed traffic laws. The truck eventually stopped when an agent used his truck to block an alleyway.

Inside the truck and in the truck’s bed, agents found 15 people who said they or their family members were to pay a smuggling organization once they reached their final destination in the United States, according to the complaint.

Siqueiros told agents he was a citizen of Mexico and had arranged to be smuggled to Tucson. He agreed to pay $1,000, but the smugglers offered to take off $600 from his smuggling fee if he would drive. He and the other 15 people crossed the border and got into the truck, which was parked near the border fence. He kept in contact with the smugglers via a radio and his cellphone.

He was told to follow the other truck, which was driven by a man called “Javier JJ” or “Jota Jota,” to a stash house.

Agents caught up with the other truck with the contractor’s logo after it fled agents at a high speed along the road near the border fence. The truck crashed into one of the agent’s vehicles, drove away, and eventually stopped when agents surrounded it with their vehicles.

One agent said he “heard shots” and saw people running from the truck. The driver ran into Mexico, leaving the engine still running. The agent heard a voice coming from a radio on the ground next to the truck asking for “Javier.”

Agents found four people in the truck who said they had crossed the border illegally. The driver told them to run when the vehicle stopped.

Siqueiros is in custody. His next hearing is scheduled for April 17, court records show. As a court-wide precaution against the coronavirus, many defendants appear in court via video conference.


© 2020 The Arizona Daily Star