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Two men charged in deaths of 53 migrants found in tractor-trailer in Texas

June 30 (UPI) -- Prosecutors have charged two more people in connection to the deaths of dozens of migrants who were left abandoned earlier this week in the back of a tractor-trailer on the side of a San Antonio road.

Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, has been charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in Death while Christian Martinez, 28, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, the Justice Department said Wednesday in a release.

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If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

The charges were laid after authorities on Monday found the tractor-trailer abandoned by the side of a road in the Texas city. Forty-eight people were found dead inside and around the sweltering vehicle with another 16 found suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

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The death toll has since climbed to 53 with five of the victims dying at the hospital.

Prosecutors accuse Zamorano, a Brownsville native who resides in Pasadena, Texas, of being the driver of the tractor-trailer, and was detained by San Antonio Police Department officers who found him hiding in a bush after attempting to flee the scene.

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Surveillance footage of the tractor-trailer crossing through an immigration checkpoint into the United States shows the driver wearing a black and white striped shirt and a hat, with Homeland Security Investigations identifying the man is Zamorano.

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Martinez was arrested Tuesday in Palestine, prosecutors said, as a search of Zamorano's cell phone discovered communications between them about the smuggling operation.

The arrests and charges follow those brought against Mexican citizens Juan Claudio D'Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D'Luna-Bilbao, 48, earlier this week.

Court documents state that the tractor-trailer used in to smuggle the 64 undocumented migrants into the United States was registered to a San Antonio residence where they were residing.

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Police had surveilled the house after the tractor-trailer was discovered, and when officers observed two men leave the residence in two separate trucks they conducted a traffic stop on both vehicles. D'Luna-Bilbao was found with a handgun in the central console of the truck he was driving and a search warrant executed on their residence produced additional firearms, the prosecutors said, adding that both men were found be in the United States illegally.

Both men have been charged with one count of possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the U.S. and each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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