In this image tweeted by David Caltabiano of KABB/WOAI, a heavily damaged SUV is seen on Texas Highway 85 in Big Wells, Texas, after crashing while carrying more than a dozen people fleeing from Border Patrol agents, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (David Caltabiano/KABB/WOAI via AP)

5 charged in 'smuggling scheme' after fatal crash in Texas

June 19, 2018 - 6:34 pm

DALLAS (AP) — Five people have been charged in a "smuggling scheme" following the fatal crash of an SUV that was fleeing Border Patrol agents and sheriff's deputies in South Texas, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the western district of Texas said the charges were filed in connection to Sunday crash that killed at least five people. Investigators said the vehicle was carrying 14 people and traveling more than 100 mph when it overturned on Texas Highway 85 near Big Wells, about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio.

Most of the SUV's occupants were ejected.

Prosecutors said Tuesday the man driving the SUV, 20-year-old Jorge Luis Monsivais Jr., was among five people charged with transporting and conspiracy to transport and harbor "illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and death."

The Border Patrol has said two other vehicles were traveling alongside the SUV earlier Sunday, and that an agent suspected the vehicles were conducting a "smuggling event." The border agent stopped one of the vehicles, and another agent stopped a second one, according to the agency.

Multiple people from both vehicles were arrested. A man driving one of those vehicles was also charged Tuesday, along with two of his adult children and another adult. It wasn't immediately clear if any of the five defendants had attorneys Tuesday. Prosecutors didn't return messages seeking comment.

The third vehicle kept going when Border Patrol agents encountered it, and a sheriff's deputy took over the chase prior to the fatal crash, the border patrol said.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that nearly two dozen immigrants were involved in the smuggling scheme.

Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd said Sunday that four victims were dead at the scene of the crash, and most of the occupants in the SUV were believed to be in the country without legal permission.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions over the treatment of immigrants at the southern U.S. border. The Trump administration has said tougher immigration policies — even separating children from their parents — are needed to deter immigrants from coming to the country illegally.

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