Shipment company

Border Patrol agents find nearly 100 people hiding in a shipment of rotting fruit

A truck driver attempted to hang himself in a holding cell at the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint last week after officers found nearly 100 people hiding in a tractor-trailer full of rotting fruit, which he was driving, according to a criminal complaint.

The incident happened around 2:45 a.m. Thursday when Ruben Oswaldo Sanchez approached the checkpoint in a 2015 Kenworth tractor towing a 1999 Great Dane trailer.

During an inspection, an officer asked Sanchez and his passenger — a woman he recently started dating — where they were headed. The two told Houston, according to the complaint, which said Sanchez told the officer he was carrying strawberries.

Meanwhile, a K-9 Border Patrol alerted the trailer, and officers referred Sanchez for secondary inspection.

Officers found the trailer doors were secured with two locks and a metal seal, but authorities opened them after Sanchez told them where the keys were, according to the complaint.

Officers found 96 people crammed into the trailer, including three minors. Two of these minors were unaccompanied.

The woman, who was not identified in the complaint, told officers that Sanchez asked her to accompany him on a trip to Houston. She described Sanchez as a truck driver who doesn’t work very often, according to the complaint.

She agreed to go because she wasn’t working and said that around 10:45 p.m. a man later identified as Sanchez’s brother picked her and Sanchez up in a blue Chevy and drove them to a lot off of US Highway 83 in La Joya/Palmview area.

The woman told officers she got into the semi-truck in the field and lay down because she was tired while Sanchez checked the truck.

She fell asleep and woke up when Sanchez stopped at the Flying J in Edinburgh, and after they left they did not stop until they reached the checkpoint.

During Sanchez’s interview, he told officers he worked for his stepfather’s trucking company, whose name was redacted in the complaint.

The complaint says officers don’t believe Sanchez was telling the truth about the number of stops he made before he was stopped at the checkpoint.

“Sanchez denied knowing anyone was hiding inside the trailer,” the complaint said.

A search of his mobile phone showed he stopped at Plantation Oaks Drive in Edinburgh for an hour and seven minutes.

Officers questioned the woman about this stop and she said she was asleep and only remembered stopping at the Flying J.

“She said they hadn’t been dating for a long time,” the complaint said.

When officers again approached Sanchez to ask him questions, he ended the interview by telling the officer “let’s do what we have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do.”

He also asked them to apologize to his companion.

“Officers were informed that Sanchez attempted to hang himself using a mylar blanket in a holding cell while at the USBP checkpoint,” the complaint states. “Sanchez was sent to the hospital for evaluation.”

Further investigation revealed that Sanchez had a false bill of lading and the fruit in the trailer was rotten.

“The bill of lading indicated that the load consisted of limes, strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple and garlic,” the complaint states. “Rotten goods in the trailer consisted of limes, strawberries and raspberries.”

Officers also discovered that the production company on the fake bill of lading said it was a copy of an old shipment.

“Furthermore, the rep said the bill of lading should be signed by the driver and there should be no reason to stop in Houston, TX since the load was being shipped to Pennsylvania.”

Finally, this particular production company hadn’t used Sanchez’s father-in-law’s trucking business since January 2021.

Officers also interviewed people in the trailer, who expressed concern that the trailer was cold and they had not been told how to escape in an emergency.

Sanchez made a first appearance Monday in federal court in Corpus Christi before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton, who ordered his temporary detention without bond pending further proceedings, according to court records.