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Two men charged with smuggling 22 undocumented immigrants in a water truck in Yuma

Yuma Sector Border Patrol
Yuma Sector Border Patrol

Two men have been charged with smuggling undocumented immigrants in a water truck in Yuma last week in an incident that was caught on video and went viral online.

Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona said on Tuesday that Antonio Varela-Verdugo, a U.S. citizen, and Gilberto Villalva, a Mexican citizen, were charged by complaint on Oct. 25, with "Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens."

Officials said Varela-Verdugo and Villalva smuggled 22 migrants in the tank of a water truck. On Oct. 23, Yuma Station Border Patrol agents followed the water truck from California into Yuma, where it stopped at a local residence.

Villalva was reportedly waiting in a vehicle across the street from the residence to guide the water truck to a local stash house. Agents later intercepted both vehicles and found 22 Mexican citizens stuffed into the tank.

In a news release, officials said a conviction for what they refer to as Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both and a term of up to three years supervised release.

Customs and Border Protection's U.S. Border Patrol Yuma Sector conducted the investigation in this case, officials said. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona, Phoenix Division, Yuma Office is handling the prosecution.

Victor is originally from West Sacramento, California and has lived in Arizona for more than five years. He began his print journalism career in 2004 following his graduation from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Victor has been a reporter for the following daily newspapers: The Monterey County Herald, The Salinas Californian and the Reno Gazette-Journal, where he covered stories including agriculture, education and Latino community news. Victor has also served as a local editor for Patch, a national news organization with hyperlocal websites, in Carmichael, California in the Sacramento area. He also served as the editor for The New Vision, the newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which includes Yuma and La Paz counties. Victor lives in Somerton. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends and following most sports.