A truck driver pleaded guilty Monday in San Antonio to federal charges in connection to an undocumented immigrant smuggling operation that resulted in 10 deaths this summer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District.
James Matthew Bradley, Jr., 61, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport immigrants resulting in death and one count of transporting immigrants resulting in death. He remains in custody and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in January.
By pleading guilty, Bradley, of Clearwater, Fla., admitted he transported undocumented immigrants to the United States in exchange for money. A co-defendant, Pedro Silva Segura, faces similar charges related to the operation.
San Antonio police on July 23 responded to a call at a Walmart store on Interstate 35 in San Antonio where they discovered the tractor-trailer that contained 39 undocumented immigrants. Eight of them died in the overheated trailer, while two others died later at area hospitals. All of the survivors had heart rates of at latest 130 beats per minute, authorities said.
Among the truck’s occupants were four juveniles, between the ages of 14 and 17, who were unaccompanied by an adult.
“Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Bradley helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life and wreaking havoc on those who survived this horrific incident,” Shane M. Folden, special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement. “This case is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination. HSI is committed to aggressively targeting human smugglers and smuggling organizations, who continually victimize people for profit.”
Passengers estimated the traveling party at somewhere between 70 and 200 people, according to court documents. They also described differing fees for transport.
Police found the truck after a passenger approached a store employee asking for water.
Bradley forfeited to the government his tractor-trailer rig, approximately $5,600 and a .38 caliber pistol recovered from inside the cab.
Silva Segura, 47, an undocumented immigrant residing in Laredo, is in custody and awaiting transfer to San Antonio.