Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Sheriff’s Office intercepts suspected human smuggling situation

Stephens County Sheriff’s Office intercepts suspected human smuggling situation
February 10
09:50 2021

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

What started out as a routine traffic stop by a Stephens County deputy Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 9, turned into an investigation of suspected human smuggling.

According the Stephens County Sheriff Kevin Roach, at approximately 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, Deputy Ryan Drake conducted a traffic stop about seven miles east of Breckenridge on U.S. Highway 180 for a minor traffic violation. During the stop, eight Hispanic men were located inside the Honda Pilot SUV, and the stop quickly transitioned into an investigation.

Sheriff Kevin Roach, Chief Deputy Wayne McMullen, and Deputy Justin Rose assisted in the investigation.

Roach said the investigation revealed that all eight men were illegal immigrants from Mexico, Ecuador, and Guatemala, and most of the men had recently entered the United States illegally. Based on training and experience, the law enforcement officers suspected that the men were being smuggled.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection office was contacted and confirmed that all of the men are illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be completing the investigation and will determine if federal charges are filed against the suspected smuggler, who said he is a Mexican citizen, the sheriff said.

According to Roach, the terms “human trafficking” and “human smuggling” are often confused. He said the two crimes are very different and it is critical to understand the difference between the two.

Human trafficking involves exploiting men, women, or children for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Human smuggling involves the provision of a service — typically, transportation or fraudulent documents — to an individual who voluntarily seeks to gain illegal entry into a foreign country, Roach explained.

He said it is possible the crime may start out as human smuggling but quickly turn into human trafficking. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is the lead agency countering both issues. However, none of the men involved in Tuesday’s traffic stop appeared to be held or transported against their will, Roach said.

Roach said that the Federal government has informed local law enforcement agencies that many smugglers have started to use U.S. Highway 180 as a route since so many have been caught on Interstate 20. In typical human smuggling cases, the people being transported often claim to be traveling for work, but they do not have any luggage or work tools, he said.

The men in Tuesday’s case were all detained in the Stephens County Jail on Federal immigration detainers, awaiting transfer to a Federal facility by the CBP, Roach said.


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