San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 8th, 2012
I-35 traffic stop snags illegal immigrant smuggler


Kyle police pulled over a sport utility vehicle hauling a dozen illegal immigrants holed up in a horse trailer Sunday night, police say.


At about 7:30 p.m., officer Joseph Swonke stopped a 1995 Chevy Suburban heading north along Interstate 35 near mile marker 215 for not having safety chains for its trailer. When the officer spoke to the driver, Donnie Oliver Tollett, he admitted that there were people in the trailer, Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett says.

Inside the trailer, a dozen men were discovered and apprehended. Ten of the immigrants are currently being held on detainers by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Two other males are believed to be minors and another man was sent to a local hospital for unspecified reasons, authorities say.

The injured man remains in the hospital but is in stable condition, says Daryl Fields, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio.

Authorities believe that the men were being smuggled further into the state from Mexico, with a majority of them destined for the Austin area.

An investigator with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was called out to the scene and the agency, an entity of ICE, has taken over the case, Barnett says.

Tollett, 38, of Asherton, Texas, was originally charged with human trafficking, a second-degree felony. However, the federal department are pursuing federal charges, authorities say.

“We’re not releasing any information because it’s an ongoing investigation,” Homeland Security spokesperson Gregory Palmore said.

On Monday, Tollett appeared at the U.S. District Court in Austin on a federal felony charge of transporting illegal immigrants. In the hearing, federal prosecutors were granted an order to temporarily detain Tollett without bond. A detention hearing is set for Thursday at 1 p.m., according to court records.

SEAN KIMMMONS reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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