UPDATE at 12:45 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015: Federal prosecutors ID'd the officer. More at the bottom.
A Los Angeles Police Department officer was arrested over the weekend after he allegedly tried to smuggle a man across the U.S.-Mexico border by allowing him to hide in the cargo area of his mini SUV, federal authorities said today.
The cop will "face federal charges," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
The unidentified, 34-year-old officer was stopped at the Otay Mesa crossing, which leads into San Diego, about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. Agents referred his vehicle to a secondary area for "a more intensive inspection," according to the statement.
Authorities said both he and a 31-year-old female passenger presented U.S. passports, as is customary at such crossings. However, something unknown prompted agents to refer the pair and the Nissan Juke they were in to secondary inspection.
There a Z-Portal x-ray-type device was used on the vehicle to get a better look at what might be inside, the CBP stated. It "detected anomalies in the rear cargo area of the vehicle," the U.S. Homeland Security agency said.
Inside that cargo area agents found a "26-year-old man hidden in the rear cargo area," the CBP said:
The man is a Mexican citizen with no legal ability to enter the United States.
The driver "was confirmed to be a Los Angeles police officer," the agency said.
Both he and the passenger were booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center on suspicion of human smuggling, officials indicated. The case will now go to a federal prosecution team for its consideration.
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith had no comment except to confirm that the lawman has a "police officer II" ranking and is based at the department's Hollywood Division.
UPDATE at 12:45 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015: The U.S. Attorney's criminal complaint identifies the officer as 34-year-old Carlos Curiel Quezada, Jr.
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It alleges that Quezada attempted to smuggle Atanasio Perez-Avalos into the United States by helping conceal him in the spare-tire area of the Nissan. The document says the cop initially told agents he was headed to Mission Hills in the San Fernando Valley.
Charges were filed today alleging that the officer violated the federal statute against bringing in and harboring undocumented immigrants.
An official at the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego said Quezada was due in court at 2 p.m. today.