A Mexican man trying to enter the country illegally told federal investigators he just wanted to go to Arkansas to be with his family.
However, a smuggler in Pharr held him and three others at gunpoint and he never made it north of the checkpoint, according to a federal complaint.
But the man escaped when Baylee Bret Lugo, born in 1999, took him to a gas station to buy cigarrettes. When the man entered the gas station without a mask, the clerk told him he couldn’t be in the store, according to a criminal complaint.
Instead of leaving, he asked the clerk for help, federal agents say in court documents.
In response, the Pharr Police Department responded to a room at a Red Roof Inn based on what the man said and arrested Lugo and Florentino Treviño III, born in 1993, while rescuing three other Mexican citizens in the country illegally — who all told federal investigators the duo held them at gunpoint in an effort to extort more money out of them as they attempted to travel north, according to a criminal complaint.
Both men are charged with harboring/transporting people who are in the country illegally.
During an interview with Homeland Security Investigations at the Pharr Police Department, Treviño told authorities that an unidentified man asked him to pick up the people at an H-E-B in Mission on July 9, according to a criminal complaint.
The man told federal investigators that he took them to the hotel where he and Lugo had rented a room for themselves and for the Mexican citizens they were going to smuggle north.
“Lugo told Trevino they could make a lot of money off the (people) by moving them to another location and charging them extra money for their release,” the complaint states.
According to federal investigators, Lugo said he told the people they needed to pay an extra $100 for transport.
The Mexican citizens, who are all material witnesses, told investigators that Lugo had them call the smuggler on the Mexican side and that he asked for more money, but she wouldn’t pay, according to the complaint.
“Lugo then got on the phone with the Mexican-side smuggler and demanded $100 more,” investigators say in court documents.
According to the complaint, Lugo then took one of the men to the store to buy cigarrettes — where the man escaped.
During Lugo’s interview with federal agents, authorities say he told them he had smuggled approximately 60 people into the United states “and is good at it” and earned around $1,000 per 20 people, according to the complaint.
All of the people had been in the country illegally for two weeks and had been held at a stash house after crossing the Rio Grande before being picked up, according to the complaint.
Once Treviño picked them up at the H-E-B and brought them to the hotel, they told investigators how Lugo informed them that they were his property while taking away their money and phones, investigators say in court documents.
“Lugo would point the handgun at the (people) and yell at them,” the criminal complaint stated. “(One of the men) was terrified of Lugo and felt that Lugo was going to kill them.”
Lugo and Treviño made a first appearance in federal court Monday and are being temporarily held without bond pending detention and probable cause hearings, court records show.