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Smugglers

CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 12, 2011 | By Hector Becerra and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times
Stranded off the Santa Barbara coast, the illegal immigrants decided that being rescued was more important than reaching their destination undetected. So one used a cellphone to call 911 on Friday. Boats carrying officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Park Service set off to find them amid the rugged beauty of the eight Channel Islands. Two days later, authorities landed on Santa Cruz Island, where 15 famished, but otherwise healthy, Mexican immigrants awaited. "They were stranded and couldn't get to the mainland," Coast Guard Petty Officer 1 s t Class Adam Eggers said Monday.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 2, 2011 | By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from San Diego -- A federal judge on Friday sentenced a Mexican drug smuggler to life in prison for running over a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2008 while speeding across the Imperial County sand dunes to Mexico. Jesus Navarro-Montes, 25, swerved and hit Agent Luis Aguilar, 32, at about 55 mph after the officer laid down a spike strip in an attempt to stop the Hummer that Navarro-Montes was driving. The life sentence marks the end of a long and sometimes frustrating cross-border effort to arrest and extradite Navarro-Montes — who fled to Mexico and, because of a prosecutorial snafu, was able to avoid extradition for more than a year.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 24, 2011 | By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
The illegal immigrants donned Marine Corps camouflage uniforms and military-style buzz cuts. The license plates on their van had been switched from Mexican to U.S. government plates. If anyone asked, they were Marines traveling to March Air Reserve Base. But their ploy didn't take into account the possibility of being stopped by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was a former Marine armed with a simple question. The agent, S. Smith, asked the driver to tell him the birthday of the Marine Corps.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 24, 2011 | By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
The immigrants heard the engine slow as the pilot steered through breakers. Twelve hours earlier, they had shoved off from a beach near Ensenada. Now, they were bobbing off Red Beach at Camp Pendleton. Out in the darkness, California beckoned. "Jump out!" barked the pilot. The 17 immigrants climbed over the side of the rickety boat, stumbling and splashing their way through the surf where U.S. Marines usually charge ashore in armored vehicles during amphibious assault exercises.
NATIONAL
March 10, 2011 | By Kim Murphy and Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
Lawmakers in Mexico are demanding an investigation into a U.S. law enforcement operation that allowed hundreds of weapons to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels amid claims from a ranking legislator that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded by guns trafficked by smugglers under the watch of U.S. agents. U.S. authorities say manpower shortages and the high number of weapons sold resulted in their losing track of hundreds of guns, from pistols to .50-caliber sniper rifles, though a federal agent deeply involved in the Phoenix-based operation said it was "impossible" that U.S. authorities did not know the weapons were headed for Mexico.
WORLD
February 27, 2011 | By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
Suleiman Zjailil is a modern-day town crier. He spends his days driving his battered car back and forth across the border with Egypt, smuggling out grainy cellphone videos so the world can see the news from his quarantined land. Zjailil, an engineer in the Libyan coastal city of Tobruk, is determined to deliver visual proof of President Moammar Kadafi's bloody tactics against a mounting populist rebellion. Armed only with thumb drives and CDs, he downloads videos taken by Libyans and makes the 95-mile trip from Tobruk to Egypt.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 3, 2010 | Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
A German man who authorities said netted more than $300,000 by smuggling hundreds of tarantulas into the United States through the mail was expected to appear in court Friday in Los Angeles to face federal charges. Officials said the web of "Operation Spiderman" caught Sven Koppler, 37, Thursday, shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles to meet with associates in the alleged scheme that included some endangered species of tarantula. Koppler is charged with illegally importing wildlife into the United States, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
WORLD
October 7, 2010 | By Simon Roughneen and Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
The last chance for an alleged arms smuggler dubbed the "Merchant of Death" to avoid extradition from Thailand to the United States on terrorism charges appears to lie with Thailand's prime minister, who faces a tough decision: offend the United States or offend Russia. The difficult diplomatic choice for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva follows a ruling Tuesday by a Thai court clearing a legal obstacle that had barred the extradition. Victor Bout, a former Russian air force officer, is suspected of supplying weapons to various armies and terrorist groups in the Middle East, South America and Africa.
NATIONAL
September 7, 2010 | By Ken Dilanian, Tribune Washington Bureau
One by one, Border Patrol agents took the witness stand in the federal courthouse here last week to testify against a fellow officer, their faces creased with anguish. By their accounts, Agent Jesus Enrique Diaz Jr., a husband and father with seven years on the job, tortured a 16-year-old drug smuggler two years ago by wrenching his handcuffed arms upward as he pressed a knee into his back. In an effort to make the boy reveal where he had hidden marijuana bundles near the Rio Grande, Diaz also kicked him and dropped him face-first on the ground, agents testified.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 21, 2010 | By Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times
An Ecuadoran man told investigators he was held in an 800-square-foot Baldwin Park house while his captors demanded $2,500 above the $10,500 he had already paid to be smuggled into the United States. Another man traveled from New York to pay $12,000 for the release of his 12-year-old son sequestered in the house. Smugglers then kidnapped the man and demanded another $1,000 from his family for his release. These were among the stories emerging Friday after 35 illegal immigrants were found in the house Thursday; one of them had managed to get a cellphone and call 911. Baldwin Park officers arrived at the house to find two men running away.
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