A man arrested in Pearl River County was transporting eight undocumented immigrants, including three hidden in the cargo area of a compact SUV, an affidavit says.
Emerson Isaac Hernandez-Turcios, 26, also was driving impaired while transporting eight people who were found to be in the U.S. without permission, a Homeland Security Investigations agent from Gulfport said in his sworn statement.
A deputy sheriff had pulled over a Honda CRV with a temporary Texas tag on Sunday and found nine people in a vehicle designed to carry five, the agent said. Turcios and five passengers were seated and three were hiding under a cover in the cargo area.
Turcios is from Honduras and is a permanent U.S. resident.
He at first told the deputy the passengers were his friends and family, but changed his story, saying he didn’t know any of them and was getting paid to drive them from Houston to Virginia, the agent said.
His passengers were three women ages 25 to 43 and five men ages 24 to 26, records show. Four are residents of Guatemala. Two are from El Salvador and two others are from Mexico.
The deputy reported Turcios had a glass pipe with residue in it and marijuana residue was on the floorboard between the driver’s seat and his door. The deputy arrested him on a DUI charge.
All nine were taken to the Pearl River County jail, where the HSI agent said he confirmed none of the passengers had obtained permission to be in the U.S.
Turcios allegedly told the agent he was to be paid $600 to $700 for the trip and was paid $350 upfront for gas to and from Virginia. Turcios said he didn’t know the person who had hired him, or where he was driving to in Virginia, the agent said. The person who hired him reportedly was to call him with specific instructions as he approached Virginia.
Turcios is being held for federal marshals pending an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.