SAN DIEGO -- A man was charged in federal court Tuesday in connection with the deaths of three Chinese migrants, including a mother and her 15-year-old son, who were found dead in the trunk of a car.
Prosecutors said Neil Edwin Valera, a U.S. citizen who resides in Tijuana, smuggled the three migrants in his BMW and left them in the trunk of the car two days after he crossed into the United States through the San Ysidro Port of Entry in the same car.
Valera, a truck driver from El Paso, Texas, was taken into custody at the downtown bus station on Saturday.
He was charged via complaint with Encouraging Aliens to Enter Resulting in Death and Bringing in Aliens without Presentation for Financial Gain.
On August 11, 2019, at 4:54 p.m., San Diego police received an emergency 911 call from a person reporting a foul odor and blood dripping from a suspicious vehicle with Texas license plates parked near the 2100 block of Jaime Avenue in the Bay Terraces neighborhood of San Diego.
San Diego police officers discovered a 1999 silver BMW with a Texas license plate. The officers lifted the trunk and found what initially appeared to be two deceased Asian females. Homicide detectives found an additional victim, an Asian male, pressed up against the rear wall of the trunk. A witness said the car was first noticed two days earlier and no one was seen coming or going.
Video recordings show the same car crossing into the United States from Mexico on August 9, 2019, at the San Ysidro port of entry at 3:14 p.m. According to the complaint, the driver was Valera, the registered owner of the vehicle. Valera used his Sentri card to enter into the U.S. After that day, Valera only crossed into the United States on foot, through pedestrian lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
“These tragic cases are grim reminders that attempting to cross into the United States illegally in the trunk of a car – and putting your faith, hope and future in the hands of smugglers – is extremely dangerous,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “My office will aggressively prosecute those who smuggle others into the United States for financial gain, place vulnerable people in grave danger, and recklessly cause deaths.”