by Sharon Ko / KENS 5
Posted on February 14, 2014 at 10:43 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Rental companies report losing more vehicles every year to human smugglers modifying the cars to sneak illegal immigrants into the United States.

It's a growing trend confirmed by Immigration's and Customs Enforcement. Budget rental company says it's seeing more of its larger vehicles destroyed or lost.

When employees track down the vehicles, the manager says the interior is gutted out.

"You can see footprints, even on the roofs, everywhere. So, that means there were a lot of people inside," said Jose Takekuma, customer service manager.

Some of the rentals disappear as well. The manager says more often than not, if a rental goes past the border and vanishes, it's written off as a loss.

"We used to have people retrieving those vehicles, but it's really difficult to find people now doing that job, especially the situation they have over there. It's unsafe for them," Takekuma said.

The last operation in San Antonio that brought down smugglers was in 2008. ICE teamed up with rental car companies and organized "Operation Day Rider."

Authorities arrested and convicted several smugglers bringing illegal immigrants into Texas.