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Old 09-29-09, 06:17 AM   #1
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Default San Ysidro Border Smuggling Suspect Appears in Court

San Ysidro Border Smuggling Suspect Appears in Court

By Greg Moran
Union-Tribune Staff Writer

8:35 p.m. September 25, 2009

SAN DIEGO – One of two men charged in a human smuggling operation that ended Tuesday with federal agents shooting at the suspected smugglers at the San Ysidro border checkpoint appeared in federal court Friday.

Prosecutors charged Javier Jaramillo Mendez with smuggling illegal immigrants for financial gain. He was ordered held pending a detention hearing next week.

According to a federal complaint, Jaramillo was the navigator for the driver of a van who ran the border with 25 illegal immigrants inside. Jaramillo has been arrested 28 times for immigration violations, the complaint said.

The complaint says that Sergio Guzman Torres drove one of three vans loaded with illegal immigrants that ran the border checkpoint. With the van coming toward them, three federal agents opened fire. Four people were wounded, two by gunfire, including Guzman.

Guzman, who remains hospitalized, has been arrested 11 times for violating immigration laws, the complaint said. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

The complaint says Guzman told investigators he drove the van in lieu of paying a smuggling fee. Jaramillo told agents he was not a smuggler and paid $4,000 to get across the border.

But passenger Alberto Morales Sanchez, who said he paid a $3,500 smuggling fee, said that at a gas station near the border, Jaramillo got in the van with a walkie-talkie to act as navigator.

Another passenger, Jose Luna Chavez, said the initial plan to smuggle the illegal immigrants over the border fence was abandoned because of a heavy presence of Border Patrol agents. Luna said that the van's tires were replaced with a set that would not fail when rolling over vehicle spike strips, which are used by law enforcement to stop fleeing vehicles.

Luna said he paid a $2,500 smuggling fee.

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