Border Patrol: Planes Used To Smuggle Immigrants
Pilots have begun using small aircraft to smuggle illegal immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to inland airports, according to authorities who last week seized a Cessna from a Southern California airport and brought charges against one pilot. "It seems to be a new avenue they're using," Border Patrol Agent Adrian Corona told a local newspaper. Federal prosecutors say 30-year-old Lino Rodriguez-Chavez used a Cessna rented from Hemet-Ryan Flight School in Hemet, California, to fly a group of illegal immigrants from Imperial County airport to Hemet airport. The pilot appeared in court Monday, entered a not guilty plea and was released on $20,000 bond. Multiple flights have been intercepted by El Centro Border Patrol agents in the past few years.
Authorities say that Rodriguez-Chavez was one of four flights stopped since 2010 while engaging in the act of transporting illegal immigrants. If convicted, pilots can face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Homeland Security agents say Rodriguez-Chavez met the illegal immigrants near Calexico and moved them to Imperial County Airport. He then led the immigrants to the aircraft and boarded with them, according to authorities who stopped the plane on the runway. The pilot has been charged with one count of illegal transportation of an alien.