US man driving a border patrol cloned SUV wearing a fake uniform is arrested while transporting 10 undocumented migrants in Arizona
- Alexander Celaya-Ortiz was arrested August 21 in Sells, Arizona for transporting 10 undocumented migrants
- Celaya-Ortiz, a US citizen, used a cloned US border patrol Chevrolet Tahoe to transport the Guatemalan and Mexican nationals, police say.
- Four of the migrants told authorities they paid to be smuggled from Mexico to the United States
- The Homeland Security Investigations office in Sells was tipped off on Aug. 20 about a cloned agency vehicle used to smuggle migrants
- Officers tried to stop Celaya-Ortiz at a checkpoint, but he continued to drive before officers used a tire deflector to stop the SUV
- Celaya-Ortiz was able to flee the vehicle and let the migrants in before being detained hours later, officials say
- Officers seized a walkie-talkie and a green shirt with a US Border Patrol patch sewn on it
An American man dressed as a US Border Patrol agent was arrested in Arizona for smuggling a group of undocumented migrants in a ‘cloned’ agency vehicle.
Alexander Celaya-Ortiz was taken into custody in the early hours of August 21 in Sells, Arizona.
Celaya-Ortiz was reportedly spotted driving a Chevrolet Tahoe with US Customs and Border Protection markings in the town of Three Points along State Route 86.
He then passed a checkpoint without stopping, according to a court document from the United States District Court District of Arizona.
The 2010 white Tahoe model had the green stripes and light bars commonly used by official CBP vehicles. The smugglers had also cloned the license plate and markings of a real CBP truck.
But officers — who had been tipped off that a cloned vehicle was being used to transport migrants — became suspicious because the paint job was too clean for the 2010 model vehicle. Washington Times reports.
Officers checked the vehicle’s license plate and matched it to an agency vehicle that was later found parked at the Three Points Border Patrol Station.
Celaya-Ortiz was later seen driving near Sells as he headed south on Federal Route 19 and later returned toward the checkpoint on State Route 86.
FAKE: Smugglers took a 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe and outfitted it with U.S. Customs and Border Protection decals
REAL: An official U.S. Border Patrol vehicle parked near the United States-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, California
Border Patrol officers tried to get Celaya-Ortiz to stop at the roadside inspection spot, but he reportedly refused to comply, prompting them to set up a tire deflector further down the road.
After the truck came to a complete stop, Celaya-Ortiz is said to have run out of the vehicle, leaving the migrants behind.
He was found hours later with the help of a sniffer dog and an air support unit, officials said.
Authorities find a two-way radio with a lapel microphone and a green shirt with a Border Patrol patch sewn on it.
Guatemalan migrant, Wilson Ponce-González, said he paid $12,000 to be smuggled from his native country to the United States, the court document shows.
Although he was unaware that he would be transported in the Border Patrol’s cloned SUV, he claims that the smugglers told him that “he would be picked up on a special method that was very safe and would take him where he wanted to go in the United States.” States.’
Orellana Ana-Elisa, also from Guatemala, claims she paid about $11,600 to be brought to the United States illegally.
She said she was “told by the smugglers that she would be arrested in a way that would guarantee she would get where she wanted in the United States,” the court document said.
Mexican national Juan Aquino-Sánchez was smuggled out of Altar, Sonora, where he said he made a deal to pay $9,000 for his illegal crossing to the United States.
According to the court file, Aquino-Sánchez “was told he was paying a special price for being picked up in a cloned border patrol ride” and that “smugglers had previously tried this method of using a cloned border patrol vehicle and had success.” . ‘
Sandra Portillo, whose nationality was not released by the court, told investigators she met a young man in Altar, Sonora, who promised to get her across the border between Mexico and the United States.
Portillo agreed to pay $3,500 when she arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, and was going to pay another $2,500, but was unaware that she would be traveling in the fake Border Patrol vehicle.