- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2023

Prosecutors have brought charges against a man they say tried to sneak illegal immigrants through a Border Patrol checkpoint by packing them in the rear of an SUV, then calling to have it towed through the checkpoint.

A Border Patrol dog sniffed out the migrants, and agents discovered one illegal immigrant from Honduras and one from Mexico in the SUV. They were caught over the weekend at the checkpoint near Falfurrias, Texas, which lies on one of the two main roads north out of the southern tip of the Lone Star State.

Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested Rafael Gonzalez on smuggling charges.

According to court documents, Mr. Gonzalez first tried to claim the Toyota RAV4 belonged to his boss, who had arranged for it to be towed and asked Mr. Gonzalez to ride with it. But an agent said the towing service confirmed it was Mr. Gonzalez who arranged the tow and gave a bogus name.

The agent even played a recording of the call, and Mr. Gonzalez admitted he made the call but still denied knowing about the migrants. And it turned out the RAV4 was rented.

Mr. Gonzalez also allowed agents to search his phone. They found a text from just before the smuggling attempt where he messaged someone called Pops that “I think I’m going to jail.”

Mr. Gonzalez told agents that the tow truck driver wasn’t involved in the smuggling attempt.

Agents checked Mr. Gonzalez‘s history and found he was stopped in a previous smuggling attempt with four illegal immigrants last May. He denied knowing about those migrants and was released without charges at that time.

Attempts to use a tow truck to sneak through a Border Patrol checkpoint appear rare, but they aren’t unheard of.

A 2019 try almost succeeded. The tow truck made it through the checkpoint near Sarita, Texas, and was several miles up the road when the driver turned around, came back and told agents something smelled off about that particular run.

Agents popped the trunk and spotted two Brazilian migrants packed inside.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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