SAN ANTONIO — The driver of a tractor-trailer with Iowa ties charged with an illegal alien smuggling operation that resulted in 10 deaths pleaded guilty to those charges on Monday.
This guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr., Western District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden with U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio.
James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad, Oct. 16, and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death. By pleading guilty, Bradley admitted that on July 23, 2017, he conspired to transport and transported illegal aliens in the United States for financial gain, to further their illegal entry into this country, with reckless disregard that they entered this country illegally, and which resulted in the death of 10 illegal aliens.
Bradley said he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas.
Bradley, who faces up to life in federal prison, remains in custody pending sentencing scheduled for 9 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2018, before Senior U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra. Bradley has agreed to forfeit to the Government his tractor-trailer rig, about $5,600 in U.S. currency and a .38-caliber pistol recovered from inside the cab of the tractor-trailer.
According to court records, which Bradley admitted were factually correct, San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officers responded to a call at the Wal-Mart store located at 8538 Interstate 35 in San Antonio shortly after midnight on Sunday, July 23, 2017. An officer encountered a tractor-trailer behind the store, finding a number of people standing and lying in the rear of the trailer, and the driver, Bradley, in the cab. At the scene, law enforcement officers discovered 39 illegal aliens. Of the 39 aliens found at the scene 10 died; eight died in the trailer and two died later in area hospitals. There were four juveniles, aged 14 to 17 years old, within the group of aliens in Bradley’s trailer who were unaccompanied by an adult. Court records further state that the illegal aliens estimated the trailer contained between 70 and 180 to 200 people during transport. They also described differing fees for being transported.
“Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Bradley helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life and wreaking havoc on those who survived this horrific incident,” said Shane M. Folden, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “This case is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination. HSI is committed to aggressively targeting human smugglers and smuggling organizations who continually victimize people for profit.”
Bradley’s co-defendant, 47-year-old Pedro Silva Segura, an illegal alien residing in Laredo, Texas, faces one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, and two counts of transporting illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy. Those charges stem from a superseding federal grand jury indictment handed down on Sept. 20, 2017. Silva, who was arrested in Laredo on an alien smuggling charge, is in federal custody awaiting transfer to San Antonio.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christina Playton and Matthew Lathrop, Western District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.