WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A Tomball, Texas, man gets probation for plea to smuggling children and has his 10-year prison sentence suspended to five years probation and a $1,500 fine.

Mario Alberto Murillo-Rodriguez was arrested on U.S. 287 and charged with smuggling of persons under 18 years old. He pleaded guilty in 89th District Court on Thursday, November 2, 2023. A Wichita County deputy stopped a vehicle traveling eastbound on U.S. 287 last May.

The deputy said three children were located in the backseat of the vehicle, ages two, seven, and 14.

Murillo-Rodriguez told the deputy that the front seat passenger was his wife, the kids were his, and that he had permission to have them out of school. He told the deputy they were driving home from New Mexico after visiting a friend who had just had his leg amputated.

The deputy asked Murillo-Rodriguez the names of his wife and kids and said that Murillo-Rodriguez was hesitant to answer.

The deputy then questioned the passenger who said Murillo-Rodriguez was her cousin and that the children were her kids, but she also could not provide the deputy with their names. She told the deputy she had not committed any infraction and to speak to the driver.

The 14-year-old child told the deputy they had been under the care of a family in New Mexico and now were headed back to their parents in Texas.

Authorities said Murillo-Rodriguez then gave the deputy a new story–that he’d picked the children up at a motel in Albuquerque and was taking them to their father in Houston.

CPS was called to the scene and took custody of the children.