Trial date set in Raymondville immigrant smuggling case

Raymondville immigrants

A woman charged for her alleged role as a scout in a human smuggling operation after 86 undocumented people were discovered in a tractor trailer near Raymondville will go to trial later this month.

According to court records, Danay Rego-Plasencia was arrested in May 2018 after agents with the Texas Criminal Investigation Division (CID) observed her at a Stripes/Valero gas station on Highway 77 meeting up with the driver of the trailer.

On Tuesday, Rego-Plasencia appeared before U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. for a pretrial conference. Trial was set to begin on Feb. 18, according to the case file, which also detailed that parties will have 14 hours each to present their case, including cross examination and witnesses.

An indictment handed down on June 12, 2018 charged Rego-Plascencia with eight counts related to transporting undocumented persons. Some of the charges indicated that the purpose of the transport was for private financial gain.

A criminal complaint filed in the case stated that Rego-Plasencia’s co-defendant Jorge Alfredo Rodriguez was pulled over for failure to maintain a single lane while driving a semi-tractor trailer near Raymondville on May 22, 2018.

Rodriguez gave consent for law enforcement to search the trailer. Inside, officers discovered several subjects attempting to conceal themselves, according to the document.

In total, 86 undocumented people were discovered hiding among palettes of rotten avocados, reports stated. Photos from the night of the incident show that some of the passengers broke through the top of the trailer following the traffic stop.

According to the document, four undocumented people were held as material witnesses. Three of them identified Rodriguez as the driver of the trailer. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Dec. 4, 2019.

A third defendant, Roger Edgardo Garcia-Brizuela, allegedly paid Rodriguez to coordinate the transport of the 86 passengers to Houston. He was sentenced was sentenced to 75 months in federal prison on Jan. 6.

A criminal complaint filed in Garcia-Brizuela’s case stated that the Rodriguez told investigators he met Garcia-Brizuela through Rego-Plasencia in Houston. Garcia-Brizuela also allegedly paid Rodriguez $45,000 in cash for a smuggling event he and Rego carried out on May 1, 2018, according to the document.

Rodriguez told investigators Garcia agreed to pay $2,500 per person for the smuggling event that lead to the arrests, the complaint stated. This was contested during sentencing by Garcia-Brizuela’s attorney, who argued that Rodriguez’s testimony was not credible.

An analysis of Rego’s phone revealed two phone calls between her and Garcia for the two smuggling events, according to the document.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com