Seven Smugglers Help Migrant Reach LA for $8,500: Court Records


Border Patrol Anti-Smuggling Unit Thwarts Alleged Plot, Arrests California Resident and Baja Lawyer

A woman adjusts her mask as she shops at the Gran Plaza outlet mall Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Calexico, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A lawyer from Baja California and a resident of Heber, California, are facing charges of transporting and harboring illegal aliens following a May 26 incident. This incident underlines the operations of a sophisticated smuggling network along the California-Mexico border, as revealed by court documents.

The arrests of Rita Dulce Arcos and Claudia Lizbeth Salazar Gonzalez are connected to the illegal entry of a Mexican citizen, who was seen climbing the border wall by camera operators of the El Centro Border Patrol Sector in Calexico, California.

The man was spotted crouching near the Gran Plaza Outlets shopping center in Calexico while border agents monitored him through surveillance cameras. Shortly after, another man, thought to be part of the smuggling network, scaled the barrier from the Mexican side, engaging in erratic behavior to distract a marked Border Patrol vehicle in the vicinity, according to court records.

The distraction diverted the patrol vehicle, but members of the Border Patrol Anti-Smuggling Unit kept an eye on the crouching individual as he entered the Gran Plaza Outlets. The migrant, later identified as Jose de Jesus Manuel Cortez, met three presumed smugglers, changed shirts, and was escorted into various stores, pretending to shop.

The group then left the shopping center, took a cab, and headed to a nearby McDonald’s. There, two smugglers left separately while the third arranged another cab to take Manuel to a stash house in Heber, as per the records.

A surveillance helicopter followed the cab, which stopped to pick up a woman before continuing to its destination. Manuel and Rita Dulce Arcos exited the cab at the location. Shortly after, a woman in a Kia Rio with Baja California plates waited for Manuel to enter the vehicle.

As the Kia drove off, agents from the Anti-Smuggling Unit intervened, activating their emergency lights. A criminal complaint filed on May 28 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Southern California states that Manuel admitted to being in the U.S. illegally and paying $8,500 to a smuggling network to assist his entry and transport to a job in Los Angeles.

The fee covered various services, including the aid of two Mexican smugglers to cross the border and create a diversion, as well as pickup at the shopping center.

Investigators spoke to Salazar, who claimed she was a Mexican lawyer with a valid border-crosser visa and denied knowledge of Manuel’s undocumented status. She stated that a friend had contacted her to give Arcos a ride, but she was surprised when a man emerged instead, according to court documents. She declined to make further statements.

Contrary to Salazar’s account, Manuel told investigators that Arcos had informed him that the woman in the Kia would drive him to Los Angeles. The woman in the car allegedly confirmed in Spanish that she would provide him a ride, as detailed in the complaint.

Arraignments for Salazar and Arcos are pending. The identities of other suspected smugglers remain undisclosed.

Julian Resendiz
Julian Resendiz
Julian is a Texas journalist, writer covering the U.S.-Mexico border.

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