A Texas woman faces federal charges after allegedly driving an 18-wheeler packed with illegal immigrants that broke down on a highway in Ganado, Texas, last week.
Police have identified the woman as Codi Denise Hartman. A Texas Department of Public Safety state trooper discovered Hartman's disabled vehicle, which was slightly open around 7 a.m. Thursday on Highway 59 and County Road 202.
When Trooper Alvarez stopped to assist Hartman, he first noticed four to five people walking around the trailer, according to court documents obtained by Fox 26 Houston. When police questioned her, she said she "she ran out of diesel" and was transporting "energy drinks."
Hartman was then asked for cargo documents, which she said must be in the cab. Alvarez noticed several people through the cracked door of the trailer and secured the door for backup. Those inside began to bang on the trailer doors, which Alvarez opened. He noticed a number of disheveled men and women.
Approximately 60-100 people began to flee on foot in different directions, while 12 of them remained on site. Sixty-five of them were detained and treated by Jackson County Medical services. They were arrested, while seven were transported to Jackson County Medical hospital for extreme dehydration.
Hartman was arrested and charged with human smuggling after it was determined 65 people illegally entered the United States by crossing the Rio Grande without being admitted or inspected. The suspects were all taken to Jackson County Jail.
Under questioning, Hartman reportedly told authorities she was contacted four or five days earlier to make a five-hour trip to somewhere in Houston for $800. When she arrived at a Love's gas station in Donna, Texas, she met an unidentified woman in the passenger seat. The woman took a picture of her driver's license before they began to drive and threatened Hartman's family if she spoke to law enforcement.
When the trailer ran out of diesel, she said, the unidentified woman began walking alongside the highway but left her phone inside the cab. Hartman told police she never opened the back of the trailer and thought there were energy drinks inside . She later gave authorities permission to search her phone, and they reportedly discovered two instances in which Hartman allegedly demonstrated knowledge of the people inside the trailer.
After speaking with several of the detained immigrants, investigators learned that the refrigeration in the trailer did not work and they were not given any water.
"It was hot like fire. We couldn’t breathe. We were going to die," one migrant from Guatemala told investigators.
Another said she had been choking before the trailer door was opened by Alvarez.