SMPD Makes Arrests in Human Smuggling, Kidnapping Investigation

Thanks to teamwork among our San Marcos Police Department and neighboring law enforcement agencies, investigators have arrested three people accused of kidnapping and smuggling undocumented immigrants.

Mason Castillo, Robert Cruz, and Jeremiah Villarreal were arrested on a variety of charges, including Smuggling of Persons, Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, Aggravated Robbery, and Aggravated Kidnapping for Ransom/Reward.

The San Marcos Police Department was the sole law enforcement agency investigating these crimes. The investigation began in August, when a group of immigrants was smuggled from Mexico to Austin and were kidnapped by force in transit to their destination.

San Marcos Police

“The investigation took about four weeks until sufficient probable cause was developed to issue arrest warrants on all three suspects and for the issuance of multiple search warrants,” said San Marcos Police Detective, Casey Tennant. 

The three men are accused of holding at least ten undocumented immigrants until they paid them several thousand dollars in cash. The victims told detectives they were held at a home in San Marcos but didn’t know exactly where. After combing through video footage of a business in San Marcos and mapping out a radius that correlated with the time traveled to reach the home, detectives were able to determine where the victims were held. 

Police were also able to identify the suspects through information provided by the victims, along with surveillance video and digital forensics from a cell phone. It was later determined Castillo and Villarreal had a criminal history for smuggling of persons.

During the early morning hours of Thursday, September 7, SMPD officers served warrants at homes located on Academy Street, Hillyer Street, and Lazy Lane. Several law enforcement agencies helped SMPD conduct this operation safely, including the Hays County SWAT, Department of Public Safety SWAT, Bastrop County SWAT, New Braunfels SWAT, and Texas State University Police. 

“Due to the threat to the safety of the potential victims being held against their will and the multiple locations being searched, multiple SWAT teams were needed to execute the search warrants safely,” Detective Tennant said. 

University Police assisted due to the operation’s proximity to campus. 

No victims were located on the day of apprehension, but evidence was found that corroborated the serious charges that the defendants now face. Investigators assure the community that the neighborhood is safe. However, SMPD suggests that if the public sees something that seems out of place, speak up and call the police.

SMPD’s non-emergency line is 512-753-2108. Any life-threatening crimes should be reported by calling 9-1-1.