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Smugglers wanted? Man accused of using Craigslist to hire drivers

March 22, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Craigslist offers an array of opportunities -- but hiring human smugglers isn't legally among them, federal authorities say. They've arrested a Mexican man who allegedly used the site to recruit staff for his Texas-based human-smuggling operation.

José Gustavo Diaz-Velasquez, 29, was arrested last week in the border town of Rio Grande City, Texas, after a yearlong federal investigation.

Immigration agents began investigating Diaz-Velasquez in August after they discovered nearly a dozen Craigslist posts recruiting drivers for the smuggling operation, U.S. Atty. Kenneth Magidson said in a statement released Wednesday.

Investigators found that the posts were made from an apartment in the nearby border town of McAllen, Texas, reportedly belonging to Diaz-Velasquez's wife. They questioned some of those involved, Magidson said.

Diaz-Velasquez, a Mexican citizen living illegally in Texas, was arrested March 14 and ordered detained at a hearing pending indictment for smuggling illegal immigrants in connection with the scheme, Magidson said. Diaz appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos in McAllen and remains in federal custody, according to the Brownsville Herald.

Authorities have had a brush with Diaz-Velasquez before.

In April 2011, officials detained nine illegal immigrants after a high-speed pursuit of Diaz-Velasquez's car in nearby La Joya, Texas. The driver eluded capture, however; a dash camera video of the pursuit was later posted on Diaz-Velasquez's YouTube account, the statement said.

As for Craigslist, the smuggling case is but the latest in a string of crimes linked to the website.

Last year, an Ohio teen was charged with murdering a man and trying to kill another who responded to a Craigslist post advertising a $300-a-week ranch job. The trial is scheduled for later this year.

In 2009, a former Boston medical student dubbed "The Craigslist Killer" was accused of killing a masseuse he met through the site.

Police also believe a serial killer in areas of New York City and Long Island, also dubbed the "Craigslist killer," may be preying on prostitutes who advertise on the site.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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