Just over a year after 19 people were stopped, shot and burned on their way to the U.S. in an attack blamed on Mexican police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday the arrests of 10 Guatemalan nationals accused of organizing the human smuggling attempt.
The suspects allegedly set up multiple similar operations – but the failed attempt resulted in a bloody massacre south of the border that left five children among the dead.
ICE and Homeland Security Investigations officers handled the case along with the Guatemalan National Police and the country’s special prosecutor for illicit migrant trafficking.
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Carlos Gamarra, the HSI’s acting regional attaché for the Northern Triangle, said the arrests broke up a “major human smuggling organization.”
“Hopefully, the results of these high-level arrests can bring some justice to the victims’ families,” he said in a statement.
The 10 suspects face charges including human smuggling, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
In January 2021, 19 people, 16 of them from Guatemala, were murdered in Mexico on their way to the U.S., according to authorities. They had been shot, then burned in Camargo, near the border with Texas. Five were minors.
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Shortly after the attack, Mexico authorities charged a dozen local police officers in connection with the migrants’ deaths.
But the massacre also kicked off an investigation into the smuggling organization.
At least one of the victims was a suspected smuggler believed to be the group’s guide, Adan Coronado. He was the son of the operation’s alleged ringleader, David Coronado Perez, and the nephew of another arrested suspect, Ramiro Coronado, according to authorities.
On Jan. 28, 2022, investigators served 19 search warrants and arrested the 10 suspects, including the Coronado brothers. They said they seized a sum of more than $200,000 in various currencies, five vehicles, dozens of illegal gambling machines and electronics – as well as a single firearm.
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The suspects appeared in court in Guatemala City last Friday.
ICE asks anyone who suspects human smuggling to report it to their local authorities or to the feds anonymously online at ice.gov/tipline or by phone at 866-347-2423.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.