Two Mexican nationals at an address linked to the abandoned trailer truck where at least 53 migrants were found dead Monday night in Texas have been charged with unlawful possession of firearms as federal authorities continue to investigate the grim discovery.
Juan Claudio D’Luna Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna Bilbao were in a house on the 100 block of Arnold Drive in San Antonio, listed on the registration papers of the large platform that held the bodies, which had been discovered abandoned in an industrial site. district of the city of Texas, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms wrote in a criminal complaint.
Local police were staking out the building at the address when they saw the D’Lunas getting into a Ford F-250. Officers stopped the van to question the men after they began to drive away, said the criminal complaint, which was filed in federal court on Tuesday.
Officers said they obtained a warrant to search the home and they found a shotgun, rifle and three pistols spread throughout the men’s bedrooms. There was also a gun in the F-250.
Neither man could legally own firearms because they allegedly admitted they were in the United States from Mexico on expired visas and had overstayed, officers wrote in their complaint. They jailed both D’Lunas for illegal possession of weapons, and a judge ordered the two to be held without bail until at least Friday, records show.
Either man could face up to 10 years in prison if ultimately found guilty.
By Wednesday, officers had stopped directly linking the D’Lunas to the migrants’ deaths. But it is clear that they are suspected of other illicit behavior.
Authorities said three people arrested by police hours after the bodies were found were suspected of plotting to smuggle the migrants across the US southern border without permission.
One of the detainees was the rig driver, who had posed as a migrant passenger. The other two were initially portrayed only as Mexican nationals, which is what the D’Luna are.
The attorney listed for D’Luna Mendez declined to comment on Wednesday. D’Luna Bilbao’s lawyer could not immediately be reached.
At least 53 people found in the rig trailer at the center of the case have died and 11 others have been hospitalized. It is believed to be the country’s deadliest smuggling episode across the US-Mexico border, reigniting long-running debate over US immigration policies.
Officials believe the truck was carrying 67 migrants from countries including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. Forty of the dead so far have been male and 13 female, said the medical examiner’s office for Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.
The identities of less than 40 of the dead had been established by Wednesday afternoon, authorities said, citing difficulties in tracing the names and relatives of people sneaking across borders.
Eleven people were hospitalized with dehydration and other heat-related illnesses, having been in a trailer that lacked water and air conditioning as it drove through temperatures approaching 100F (38C).
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state’s Department of Public Safety will immediately begin adding more checkpoints for large tractor-trailers on high-traffic roads to limit episodes like the one in Monday.