Calexico, California - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Calexico East port of entry thwarted a human-smuggling attempt Tuesday after discovering a man concealed in a compartment in the gas tank of an SUV.
“While the vast majority of the smuggling attempts uncovered at the port of entry involve citizens from the United States and Mexico, from time to time we do encounter smuggling attempts involving citizens from Central and South America, as well as other areas around the world," said David Salazar, Acting Port Director for the Calexico ports of entry. “CBP has no tolerance for violations of immigration law, especially cases involving human smuggling in such hazardous conditions.”
The incident occurred at about 3:15 a.m. on March 1, when a 40-year-old male U.S. citizen entered the East port driving a 2001 Toyota Sequoia. A CBP officer referred the vehicle and driver for further examination.
While conducting an intensive inspection of the SUV, officers used the port’s imaging system and discovered anomalies in the vehicle’s gas tank and under the rear seats. The officers continued searching the area and discovered a man hidden inside the partially modified gas tank.
Officers extracted the man, a 38-year-old Brazilian citizen, from the compartment and escorted him to a secure location for further processing. Officers confirmed that the man had no legal ability to enter the United States.
The driver, a resident of Calexico, was arrested and will face federal charges related to the incident. He was later transported to the Imperial County Jail to await arraignment.
CBP placed an immigration hold on the Brazilian man to initiate removal from the United States at the conclusion of the driver’s criminal proceedings.
CBP officers seized the vehicle.
In fiscal year 2014, CBP officers at the border crossings between California and Mexico apprehended more than 33,000 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.