HOUSTON – A judge on Tuesday doubled the bond amounts for two women accused of helping smuggle a dozen people into the U.S. who were found in a locked, sweltering hot truck in Houston.
State District Judge George Powell raised each woman's bond to $600,000 after Harris County prosecutors said Priscila Perez Beltran, 21, and Adela Alvarez, 26, were flight risks or would resume smuggling activities if released.
The women and a third person, Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, were arrested Sunday and charged with two counts of human smuggling likely to cause injury or death and one count of human smuggling involving a minor. Ten men, a woman and a 16-year-old girl were inside the stifling truck, where temperatures topped 100 degrees.
Cortes Garcia, who is being held on $300,000, didn't appear at the hearing Tuesday. Prosecutors said they would seek to increase his bond at his next court appearance.
Prosecutors believe all three defendants are from El Salvador. Court records show none is a U.S. citizen.
The three were arrested at a strip center construction site parking area where Houston police discovered the people inside the truck. Authorities believe the people were from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.
Prosecutor JoAnne Musick said U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials already were aware of Beltran and Alvarez after a recent bust in Corpus Christi. Authorities have said they continue to investigate whether more people may be involved in the trafficking operation.
At a hearing late Monday for Cortes Garcia, prosecutors said Beltran told authorities that she previously helped him and Alvarez smuggle people into the U.S. and that Alvarez had acknowledged bringing an aunt and uncle into the country without documentation.