A six-hour large-scale operation that started in San Diego on Friday and ended in Orange County resulted in the capture of four illegal aliens accused of smuggling illegals along the Mexico/California coastline.
According to Border Patrol, “The smuggling investigation leading to the arrests shifted into high gear at around 7 a.m. Friday after the Carlsbad Police Department located an abandoned panga-style boat near Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, Calif. Local authorities alerted federal agents from the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST) and U.S. Border Patrol who had been tracking the movements of this smuggling organization for several weeks.”
Authorities reported that they were monitoring a van in a Ranch Palos Verdes neighborhood suspected of being involved with the smuggling ring. But they abandoned the vehicle surveillance at sunrise when nobody showed up.
“Investigators say the Ensenada-based vessel that came ashore in Carlsbad was originally supposed to make landfall farther north. However, the smugglers had to abort the plan after the boat developed engine trouble,” according to San Diego Border Patrol.
However, BP Agents caught a break when the panga-style boat came ashore in Carlsbad and authorities alerted LA BEST and Border Patrol who then resumed their surveillance and tracked a van to an Anaheim apartment complex.
“When investigators entered the (apartment) residence, they encountered nine illegal aliens from Mexico whose clothes were still wet and caked with sand from the morning’s boat landing. Agents also detained four alleged members of the smuggling ring, including one of the organization’s suspected leaders. Those charged in the case are:
Mario Echeverria, 24, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Tijuana, Mexico. Echeverria is suspected of being one of the ringleaders of the maritime smuggling organization; Javier Gomez-Dominguez, 30, of Mexico, the alleged caretaker of the Anaheim drop house; Jose Sevilla, 26, of Mexico, the suspected captain of the smuggling boat; and Fernando Medina-Gonzalez, 43, of Mexico, the alleged smuggling boat navigator and fuel man.”
The men are being charged with conspiring to bring, transport and harbor illegal aliens and face up to 10 years in prison.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security say, “Friday’s events offer further evidence that maritime human smuggling has expanded from the San Diego area into Orange and Los Angeles counties. In recent months, suspected human smuggling boats have come ashore as far north as Malibu.”
The U.S. maritime enforcement team has been collaborating with the Mexican government to curtail the illegal smuggling of aliens and drug trafficking along California’s coastline.
“The surge in maritime smuggling here in the Los Angeles area poses a significant security and safety threat, which is why it demands an aggressive response,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. “We know these criminal organizations’ clients include previously deported felons and others we don’t want in our communities. Beyond that, there are serious safety issues for the smuggled aliens themselves, who are being transported in overloaded, often unseaworthy boats, risking injury or even death.”
Federal law enforcement agencies point to this case as proof multiple departments can and do work well together.
“The arrests made in Anaheim are the outcome of exceptional collaboration within the federal law enforcement community,” said U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott. “Our efforts to fuse intelligence and operational planning capabilities have and will continue to produce successful results in deterring illegal maritime border crossings. We will continue to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the transnational criminal organizations operating within the San Diego Sector area of influence whose criminal activities endanger both our citizens as well as those who are smuggled through treacherous ocean waters.”
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