DEL RIO, Texas (Border Report) – A man and a woman are facing federal felony charges stemming from a high-speed car crash in Arizona with four migrants and a loaded AR-15 rifle on board.
The case originated with U.S. Border Patrol agents trying to stop a vehicle with New Mexico license plates on Arizona’s State Road 86 last July. Driver Angel Rocha pulled to the side of the road. But he would later tell investigators that the woman in the front passenger seat reported the situation to their employer and both were told to keep driving, federal court records show.
Agents followed the fleeing Jetta from a distance and witnessed it come to a stop 15 minutes later eastbound on SR 86. The female front passenger allegedly exchanged seats with Rocha and sped off, the agents said.
The new driver, named in an arrest affidavit as Naveah Avila, allegedly rolled the car over while trying to pass another vehicle around a turn; the agents found her walking “in a state of confusion” near the wreck and called for a medical evacuation helicopter to come fly her to a hospital.
Border agents noticed several people had run away from the vehicle and located four Mexican and Guatemalan citizens 2 miles away. Agents found Rocha a short distance away and he immediately asked them about the health of his “girlfriend,” court records show. She was treated and released from a hospital to federal custody.
One of the passengers, an unauthorized Guatemalan migrant, said she told the female driver to slow down during the flight but was told to “be quiet.”
Rocha allegedly told investigators he is part of a WhatsApp social media group that coordinates the transportation of unauthorized non-citizens. He said he and Avila were paid $1,200 to transport the people in the car from Tucson to Phoenix, according to court records. He said he brought an AR-15 in the car “for protection” but had no intention of using it.
Avila, though, had a different story. Court records allege she told investigators Rocha asked to borrow her car to pick up family members. She said she fell asleep after he picked up his “uncle” and woke up when she heard sirens. She said it was Rocha who was driving the car when it crashed. She said Rocha gave her $500 for gas in exchange for using her car.
Both are facing charges of transporting illegal aliens for money and placing their lives in jeopardy. Rocha and Avila last week waived their right to have their case heard by a grand jury. Legal experts say that usually happens when a defendant and prosecutors are working on a plea agreement.