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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
09/21/2012

Mexican man charged with smuggling aliens into US in cabin cruiser

Federal investigators point to increased use of pleasure craft in maritime smuggling incidents

LOS ANGELES — A Mexican man made his initial appearance in federal court Wednesday on charges stemming from his alleged role in an effort to smuggle seven Mexican nationals into the United States from Mexico onboard a cabin cruiser that came ashore near San Clemente Monday morning. The incident remains under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jesus Quinones-Chavez, 57, of Turron, Cohuila, Mexico, is accused of bringing illegal aliens into the United States in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court-Central District of California.

Quinones' arrest occurred after a dispatcher at the California State Parks Service alerted U.S. Border Patrol agents in San Clemente Monday morning that a vessel had run aground on the beach in the Cyprus Shore area of San Clemente. Border Patrol agents searched the area and discovered a beached 24-foot Bayliner cabin cruiser and apprehended seven people, including Quinones, who were soaking wet and covered in sand. An eighth individual eluded arrest. One man was later taken to a local hospital.

Investigators assigned to HSI's Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force responded to the scene and interviewed a local resident who had witnessed the boat come ashore. Additional interviews with the members of the smuggling load revealed they had each paid fees ranging from $7,000 to $12,000 to be smuggled from Puerto Nuevo, Baja California, to Newport Beach in the cabin cruiser, which allegedly was piloted by Quinones.

"Investigators are seeing an increase in the use of pleasure boats to smuggle humans and drugs into the United States," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles. "Smugglers use the cabins on these boats to attempt to conceal people and contraband, unlike the open pangas that have traditionally been used in maritime smuggling attempts along the California coast. Law enforcement is alert to this new tactic and we encourage the public to be vigilant and report suspicious pleasure boat activity to authorities."

So far this fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 6, 2012), there have been more than 190 occurrences of maritime smuggling in Southern California. Of those, 112 were human smuggling events.

Maritime security efforts off the California coastline are being overseen by the Department of Homeland Security's Central California Maritime Agency Coordination Group. The group is comprised of HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Coast Guard; and several state and local law enforcement agencies. The state and local partners include the California Highway Patrol; the California Department of Parks and Recreation; the sheriff's departments of Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties; and the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments. The group is also receiving substantial assistance from members of the California National Guard's Counterdrug Program.

For more information, visit www.ice.gov.