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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Former LAX elevator mechanic sentenced to 3 years for human smuggling

LOS ANGELES - An elevator mechanic formerly employed by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for smuggling foreign nationals into the United States by bypassing established security at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Roberto Amaya Canchola, 54, was sentenced yesterday as part of a plea agreement in which he admitted earning $1,800 for each illegal alien he ushered into airport elevators and escorted to taxis outside the terminal.

Canchola was arrested at LAX in August 2008 after agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) observed him using special access security keys to smuggle four aliens off an arriving Mexicana Airlines flight and through the airport. Canchola escorted the aliens through a series of restricted access elevators and corridors, enabling them to avoid inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. After guiding the aliens through the airport, he led them to an awaiting taxi outside.

The investigation began in late July 2008 when CBP officers discovered a discrepancy in the number of passengers from a Mexicana flight clearing the airport's federal inspection area. The four passengers presented false alien registration numbers or Mexican passports without valid visas when boarding the flight in Mexico. A review of LAX surveillance video identified Canchola intercepting the four passengers arriving on the flight and guiding them through the federal inspection area.

Canchola's badge was confiscated the day of his arrest and deactivated by the Airport Police. Prior to his resignation, Canchola was employed for 23 years by the City of Los Angeles, including 19 years with LAWA.