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Six Arrested After CHP Pursuit

Crime: Driver and passenger stop car and flee on foot as four illegal immigrants are found in trunk of rental car.


FOUNTAIN VALLEY — The California Highway Patrol on Thursday arrested six people, including four illegal immigrants hidden in the trunk of the car, following a high-speed chase that ended on a freeway off-ramp here where the driver and a passenger tried unsuccessfully to outrun officers.

No one was reported hurt in the 20-minute chase, which reached speeds of up to 107 mph.

Maria Bahema, 23, of San Diego was arrested on charges of evading officers and smuggling illegal immigrants across the border, said CHP Officer Joan Rivas.

The four people--three men and one woman--found in the trunk were turned over to immigration officers to be returned to Mexico. Rivas did not know whether charges would be sought against the other passenger, a woman whose name was not available Thursday.

The incident began at 10:20 a.m. when a four-door, teal-colored car did not stop at the border patrol checkpoint at San Clemente on northbound Interstate 5. A citizen placed a 911 call reporting that the driver of the car was driving recklessly at high speeds.

CHP Officer Dave Shisler picked up the chase near the Ortega Highway exit and tried to pull the car over, Rivas said. But the driver only sped away, staying in the carpool lane of the freeway.

The chase continued onto the northbound San Diego Freeway, where the driver exited at Euclid Street. At the red-light intersection, the driver and passenger of the car got out and ran, Rivas said.

Shisler also got out of his car and caught up to the driver. The passenger ran into an auto parts shop where another officer found and arrested her.

Meantime, Rivas said, a third officer found the four illegal immigrants in the trunk of the car, which apparently was rented from Los Angeles International Airport.

According to a witness, one of the illegal immigrants told officers during the arrest that he and his friends paid the driver $300 each for transportation across the border.

Times photographer Don Bartletti contributed to this report.

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