MILLS COUNTY, Texas — An Alabama man is accused of attempting to smuggle 21 men from Guatemala into the United States in an SUV, authorities said.
Pedro Roda-Lucas, 21, of Tuscaloosa, was arrested and charged with smuggling of persons, a third-degree felony, according to Mills County Sheriff’s Office online booking records. Roda-Lucas also was charged with failure to identify, providing a fictitious name and driving with a suspended license, records show.
According to a Facebook post by the Mills County Sheriff’s Office, on April 1, deputies pulled over a 2008 GMC Yukon in Center City for a traffic violation.
The driver, later identified as Roda-Lucas, did not have a driver’s license, KXXV reported.
“Deputies observed 21 men inside the vehicle and determined that all the individuals were from Guatemala and were in the United States illegally,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
With the help of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas Parks And Wildlife game wardens, the 21 men were secured and interviewed, Mills County Sheriff Clint Hammonds said in the post.
“It was determined that everyone had paid to be brought the United States and all were on their way to Georgia,” Hammond said in the post. “All of the people except for the driver did not have any money or cellular phones because they had been taken away from them.”
Roda-Lucas admitted to deputies that he was smuggling the men and was to be paid $450 per person when they arrived in Georgia, KWTX reported.
Roda-Lucas was arrested, but the men in the SUV were released, Hammonds said.
“Deputies contacted the United States Border Patrol and were advised that because (of) President Biden’s new orders on immigration, that they would not be taking them into custody,” Hammonds wrote on Facebook. “We were told to let them go if we did not have any offenses against them.”
According to the sheriff’s office, members from the Fellowship Baptist Church in Center City arrived with vans and helped move the remaining 20 men to the church,” KWTX reported. Church officials gave the men water and food, the television station reported.