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TX Worker Says Police, Paper Falsely Called Him 'Human Smuggler'

A South Texas oilfield worker claims in court his life is in danger from cartels who believe he is encroaching on their business after a newspaper published a front-page story identifying him as a “known human smuggler” based on bogus intel provided by a sheriff’s department official, reports Courthouse News Service. Seeking $1 million in a civil rights and defamation lawsuit, Carlos Gonzalez, 21, sued Zapata County, Tx., Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque Jr., the department's Executive Chief Joe Peña, the Zapata County News and its publisher Karran Westerman in Laredo federal court. Gonzalez said his problems started the night of Oct. 19 when he ran out of gas in his pickup. He saw a police car and flashed his headlights in hopes of getting a ride. That cop drove over to his truck and was joined by several Border Patrol agents and Zapata County sheriff’s deputies. The lawsuit claims that after Gonzalez gave consent for his car to be searched, the police found nothing amiss and departed. Gonzalez thought nothing of the seemingly harmless encounter with police. However, on Oct. 27 he read an article in the Zapata County News with the headline “Cruising Around to Find Illegals” that named him as a “known human smuggler”. The article said Border Patrol showed up and spotted a ledger in Gonzalez' pickup. implying he had records of human smuggling, and the Border Patrol “later caught five illegal aliens in the brush within the area, where the scout had placed the truck on the shoulder lane.”

Westerman said Del Bosque and Peña gave her access to a police report with the information. Gonzalez's mother contacted Zapata County sheriff’s lieutenant David Moya and lodged a complaint. Peña said a BIAR, short for Daily Border Incident Assessment Report, was involved. They are required of Texas border counties whose sheriff’s departments receive funds from the Homeland Security Grants Division of Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, part of the state’s Local Border Security Program. The initiative is meant to increase coordination of local law enforcement with Texas state police and military and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to disrupt operations of Mexican cartels. Gonzalez's mother was told that the BIAR report came "from a collection of suspicions" perceived as intel by the sheriff's department. Del Bosque did not discipline Peña for leaking the report but fired Moya after he expressed concerns about the alleged fabrications regarding Gonzalez. Moya filed his own federal lawsuit against Zapata County, Del Bosque, and Peña on Wednesday, accusing them of whistleblower retaliation. Gonzalez says the article has caused him “immense and lasting damage." "Known human traffickers’ suffer to find jobs, rent housing, qualify for loans, travel freely … Plaintiff’s life remains in danger on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border as someone branded by police as a competitor to actual human traffickers operating in the area,” Gonzalez says in his lawsuit.


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