The owner of a bus company and one of his employees have been indicted on federal charges related to the 2008 bus crash near the Texas town of Sherman that ended with the deaths of 17 passengers.
The indictment, which was returned on May 30, was unsealed on Wednesday afternoon.
Angel De La Torre, 64, and his company, Angel Tours, were charged with one count of conspiracy to make false statements, four counts of making false statements and one count of operating a commercial motor vehicle after being placed out of service. De La Torre appeared in federal court on Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Stephen Smith.
Carlos Ortuno, 52, an employee of Angel Tours, has been taken into federal custody on charges related to the crash and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to make false statements and two counts of making false statements.
The bus crash took place on Aug. 8, 2008.
De La Torre and Ortuno, both Houston residents, made false statements in an Application for Motor Carrier Authority, Form OP-1, and in an Application for U.S. DOT Number, Form MCS-150, filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to the indictment.
As the president and principal director of Angel Tours, De La Torre, and the company itself, also allegedly operated a commercial motor vehicle, based on the indictment, after being placed out of service due to an unsatisfactory safety rating following a FMCSA inspection that allegedly uncovered numerous record keeping and safety violations.
De La Torre had operated a passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle business since 1994 until Aug. 8, 2008.
The Angel Tours bus was carrying 55 passengers from Houston when it crashed on U.S. Highway 75 near Sherman. The bus was originally scheduled to arrive in Carthage, Mo.
In addition to the 17 passengers who died as a result of the crash, 38 other passengers suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious.
A FMCSA inspection in May 2008 revealed multiple violations by Angel Tours. As a result of that inspection, the FMSCA ordered Angel Tours to cease all interstate transportation on June 23, 2008, more than two weeks prior to the fatal crash, according to the indictment.
Each conviction of conspiracy and/or making a false statement carries as possible punishment up to five years in federal prison and a possible fine of $250,000. If convicted of continuing to operate after and out of service order, De La Torre and Angel Tours further face a one-year term of imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
The FBI and Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.