Seven suspects accused in Oak Island migrant smuggling operation all remain jailed days later

Those who were treated for heat-related concerns were released from the hospital.

SAN ANTONIO — The wheels of justice are turning ever so slowly for the six men and one woman arrested and accused of being involved in a large human-smuggling operation discovered last week in south Bexar County.

Authorities say more than 20 migrants were found cramped in a hidden compartment in the undercarriage of a gooseneck trailer. 

“The quick concern for us became, what were the medical conditions like?” said Sheriff Javier Salazar when they were found last Thursday. 

Ambulances from several different agencies rushed to provide care for those suffering heat-related issues.

A radio transmission from the triage zone announced: “Prep for 20 patients with heat exhaustion and other unknown injuries,” while a first responder was heard saying, “I am headed back to pick up ice bags and body bags for cooling.”

Even though the arrests were made last Thursday, the names of the accused didn’t show up in booking records until two full days later—the result of a massive computer upgrade for the Bexar County justice system.

On Monday, KENS 5 was able to confirm that all seven people rounded up in the raid are still behind bars at the Bexar County jail. Online records indicate that if the three suspects facing 26 counts of human smuggling were to come up with the $1.3 million in bonds they have been assigned, they would still have to abide by additional release conditions including full house arrest, no contact with victims and no guns.

So far, online records indicate everyone is still awaiting indictment and there are no pending court dates at this time.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning, University Hospital confirmed that everyone who had been admitted for heat-related illnesses has now been released.

The sheriff said smugglers and those whose lives are at risk could be anywhere.

“These guys, in some instances, are hiding in plain sight,” Salazar said. “In others, they’re under the radar. We’d use this as an opportunity to remind everybody: If you have information on a smuggling operation, give us a call (at) 210-335-6000.”

The suspects arrested who remain in jail include:

  • 39-year-old Abelardo Herrera: 26 counts of human smuggling and engaging in organized criminal activity
  • 36-year-old Rafael Mendoza: 26 counts of human smuggling    
  • 28-year-old Cristobal Eduardo Deleon: 26 counts of human smuggling and engaging in organized criminal activity
  • 21-year-old Jose Marvin Hernandez: One count of evading arrest 
  • 23-year-old Mario Enrique Elizondo: Smuggling of persons and engaging in organized criminal activity
  • 30-year-old Vanessa Castillo: Operating a stash house and engaging in organized criminal activity (on parole and remanded without bond)
  • 45-year-old Ismael Hernandez: Operating a stash house and engaging in organized criminal activity


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