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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

3 arrested for role in major San Diego-area human smuggling scheme

ICE, Border Patrol probe revealed ring cut holes in border fence to smuggle illegal aliens

SAN DIEGO - Three defendants are in custody after federal agents executed a series of search and arrest warrants Tuesday targeting a local criminal organization that allegedly smuggled thousands of illegal aliens into the United States over the past several years.

The enforcement actions are the latest developments in a year-long joint investigation by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Border Patrol assigned to the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST).

According to court documents, the investigation uncovered a cross-border smuggling organization allegedly run by a San Diego man, Maurilio Mosley. The court documents claim Mosley and his brother Erik, who resides in Tijuana, hired drivers and foot guides, then trained those guides to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States using various methods, including cutting holes in the border fence. After the aliens reached the United States, the drivers transported them to several "drop houses" in the South Bay area. The ring allegedly paid the guides and drivers as much as $1,800 for each group of illegal aliens they smuggled into the country.

As part of Tuesday's operation, ICE and Border Patrol agents, with assistance from the San Diego Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol, executed search warrants at several locations allegedly used by the organization to support the smuggling scheme, including the suspected ring leader's Chula Vista apartment and a National City business. Agents seized a variety of evidence at the sites, including five vehicles, nearly $18,000, numerous alien smuggling ledgers and nine counterfeit $100 bills.

"These arrests are a testament to the tireless cooperative efforts of the ICE and Border Patrol agents involved in the case," said Jose Garcia, acting special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in San Diego. "Over the course of this investigation, they conducted countless interviews and ultimately pieced together the evidence needed to dismantle one of the most persistent, large-scale local smuggling organizations uncovered in recent years."

The three men arrested Tuesday are named in a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court today. They are charged with smuggling and harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and conspiring to do so. They are:

  • Maurilio Mosley, 27, of San Diego, the suspected ringleader on the U.S. side;
  • Erik Mosley, 24, of Tijuana, the suspected ringleader on the Mexican side; and
  • George Sandoval, 42, of San Ysidro, Calif., a driver and recruiter for the organization.

The made their initial appearances in federal court here this morning. The charge of human smuggling for financial gain carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a related conspiracy charge carries additional penalties.