HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Three people were arrested after a vehicle registered to the Starr County district attorney’s office was used in a human smuggling attempt Wednesday in Victoria County, officials said.
At 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office stopped a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse for an alleged traffic violation, and the vehicle displayed the emblem of the Starr County District Attorney’s Office, according to the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office.
Magali Rosa, the driver of the vehicle, identified herself to authorities as an employee of the Starr County District Attorney’s office, authorities said. The vehicle was occupied by the driver and five other people.
“A subsequent investigation by the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations revealed that Ms. Rosa was not an employee of the Starr County District Attorney’s Office and she was utilizing the vehicle for human smuggling,” the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.
The investigation also revealed the vehicle was assigned to Bernice Garza, a crime victim coordinator of the Starr District Attorney’s Office, the VCSO stated.
The 229th Judicial District Attorney Gocha Ramirez, for Starr, Jim Hogg and Duval Counties, announced in a Facebook post that Garza has been arrested and terminated from office.
“Ms. Garza has been terminated from her employment effective immediately,” Ramirez said.
The complete statement was posted on social media:
Tonight, Crime Victims Coordinator Bernice Garza was arrested stemming from an investigation initiated by the 229th District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office worked alongside federal investigators from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and requested the assistance of the Texas Rangers in the investigation of this matter.
Alleged co-conspirators are Magali Rosa and Juan Antonio Charles, who are alleged to have utilized a vehicle belonging to the Crime Victim’s Center in order to transport undocumented aliens towards the Houston area. This investigation is an example of no one being above the law, and our office taking swift action in eliminating public corruption.
These allegations are a prime example of the violation of public trust to our community, the victims Ms. Garza serviced, and this office. The investigation into this matter shall continue with the proper authorities, and the 229th Judicial District Attorney’s Office shall remain firm in its pursuit of justice.
Ms. Garza has been terminated from her employment effective immediately. On behalf of the 229th District Attorney’s Office, we would like to thank all law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation of this matter. To our community, please know that the actions of this one individual are not representative of the hard work that our employees and investigators put in day in and day out. We initiated this investigation in order to find the truth, no matter where it led, and we will continue with that duty to bring justice to our district.Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez
Victoria County is more than 200 miles north of Starr County.
Rosa was arrested and charged with engaging in conspiracy/human smuggling, the VCSO stated.
Further, passenger Juan Charles was arrested on charges of engaging in conspiracy/human smuggling and unlawful carry of a weapon, the sheriff’s office stated.
Rosa and Charles are being held in federal custody in Corpus Christi.
The remaining occupants of the vehicle were released to U.S. Border Patrol for processing, officials said.