A Brownsville police officer is on paid administrated leave after facing federal charges of human smuggling, according to a criminal complaint obtained by CBS 4 News and federal court records.
Documents state on Feb. 26, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations agents came into contact with Brownsville Police officer Valerie Rivas in the sand dunes on Padre Island National Seashore, according to the criminal complaint.
Rivas told immigration officials that she was in the area searching for her boyfriend of 12 years, an undocumented immigrant identified as Alfredo Salazar-Hernandez. Rivas said she made arrangements to pick Salazar-Hernandez up in Victoria after he was illegally smuggled into the U.S. When she didn’t hear from him, though, she drove to Padre Island National Seashore and began searching for him in the dunes, an area where an “unnamed coconspirator” told her he was supposed to be, according to the criminal complaint.
While she was in the dunes, Rivas encountered an undocumented immigrant, later identified as Jose Raul Perez-Basoria, who said Salazar-Hernandez had “gone up ahead with other subjects,” to find assistance, according to the criminal complaint.
Earlier that day, Corpus Christi Border Patrol agents say they encountered Salazar-Hernandez and another man who said they had been walking in the sand dunes for several days without water. Border Patrol agents requested assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP Air Marine Units in locating the additional subjects.
According to the criminal complaint, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted several subjects hiding in the dunes. Rivas later told agents she was one of the subjects hiding:
“RIVAS freely stated that when they heard the helicopter flying overhead, she attempted to hide from it because she knew that it was illegal to transport illegal aliens and did not want to be apprehended doing so.”
The helicopter hovered in the area until U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Air Marine agents arrived, according to the criminal complaint.
Rivas was charged with human smuggling, according to federal court records.
Rivas, who has been employed with the Brownsville Police Department since July 2016, has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to JJ Treviño, a spokesperson for the department.