Sat, July 20

I-17 Traffic stop results in human smuggling arrest

Yavapai Sheriff's Office deputies stopped a white Chevrolet Suburban Saturday afternoon on the Interstate for impeding traffic and being overloaded with passengers. The vehicle had 12 passengers packed inside and none were wearing seat belts. The driver, who did not speak English, produced an obviously fake Mexican chauffeur's license according to officers.

The driver and passengers were detained and officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contacted to establish documentation status. ICE interviewed each detainee and confirmed all were illegal aliens and a hold was placed on the group.

A search of the vehicle revealed more bogus false Mexican chauffer licenses. Deputies also discovered the vehicle's suspension had been modified to handle added passenger weight including additional leaf springs and higher capacity coil springs.

During a records check of occupants, the front seat passenger was found to have a prior deportation case from February 2008 after a DPS traffic stop. He was identified as Edgar Correa, 21.

All subjects taken to the Camp Verde Jail pending a transfer to ICE custody. Deputies identified the driver as Alberto Correa, 28. Edgar is his nephew. Alberto admitted he had been hired by a "coyote" in Phoenix who provided the Suburban vehicle along with $400 in gas money.

The 11 passengers had been picked up from a Phoenix drop house but the group's destination was not clear. Deputies found that Alberto and Edgar were working together and profiting as human smugglers and both were booked on 11 counts of human smuggling. Alberto was additionally charged with possession of a forged instrument. Both are held without bond.

The remaining illegal aliens were eventually released to ICE custody pending deportation hearings. A majority of those released to ICE told deputies they had been smuggled into the United States after paying $1,600 dollars to a "coyote."