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Link Sought in 2 Similar Roundups of Aliens

August 13, 1987|MARY LOU FULTON | Times Staff Writer

SANTA FE SPRINGS — Authorities are investigating a possible connection between this week's capture of 45 illegal aliens released from a stolen tractor-trailer rig abandoned in Santa Fe Springs and a similar incident in the same area last month, an Immigration and Naturalization Service official said.

The Los Angeles County sheriff's station in Norwalk received a tip Monday morning that about 150 men, women and children had been freed from a rig left in the 15000 block of Spring Avenue, Lt. Robert Mirabella said.

On July 20, the INS captured 47 people freed from a stolen motor home in Santa Fe Springs, said Gerald Klipness, INS supervisory special agent.

A link between the two incidents is "very possible. . . . We're conducting a major investigation involving the use of stolen semi-trucks and trailers to transport aliens," he said.

A security guard at a local industrial plant reported Monday that noises had been heard from people banging on the inside walls of the trailer, Mirabella said. "Some of them might have heard about the incident in Texas and began to panic for a lack of oxygen," Klipness said, in reference to the death last month of 18 Mexicans locked in a railroad car.

A deputy en route to the Santa Fe Springs scene observed people of Latino origin running from the area, Mirabella said. Deputies detained 33 males, 10 females and two children who were turned over to the INS later in the day. All were deported except one woman and her two daughters who are planning to claim legal status, Klipness said.

Aliens told authorities that they were picked up in Mexico across the border from San Diego and charged $200 or $300 each to be transported to the United States.

Klipness speculated that the truck driver opened the trailer and abandoned the rig upon hearing the aliens beating on the sides of the vehicle. Those captured by the INS were in good health, he said.

A check of the license plate on the rig showed that it had been reported stolen from East Los Angeles. It was returned to its leasing agency on Tuesday, said Sgt. Ted Fleming of the sheriff's station. Fleming said he did not know the name of the leasing agency, but said the rig had Maine license plates.

Most of the aliens captured said they did not know where they were when they were freed, Klipness said. He said smugglers might choose to travel through the heavily industrial Santa Fe Springs area because it is quiet and without much traffic in the morning. "But it's more by coincidence than design" that the two incidents happened in the same area, Mirabella said.

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