Friday, January 20, 2012

Airplane seizure at Brawley Municipal Airport (KBWC) connected to smuggling operation, feds say. Brawley, California.

BRAWLEY — Two men could face charges after U.S. Border Patrol agents learned an airplane at the municipal airport here was allegedly used to smuggle undocumented immigrants, officials said.

The arrest of the suspects that federal authorities would not identify marks the third time an airplane was seized in connection with such smuggling since 2010, a press statement reported.

Federal authorities didn’t make the news about last week’s arrest public as the information was in the process of awaiting approval, said Border Patrol Agent Jonathan Creiglow on Thursday.

Few details about the Jan. 10 arrest were available but Creiglow said it wasn’t known how long the smuggling operation has been going on.

The statement reported that Border Patrol agents were conducting “a surveillance” in Brawley and caught two suspected undocumented immigrants being dropped off at an undisclosed location.

The agents pulled over the vehicle and a subsequent interview of the driver and the passenger, who are from the U.S., was conducted.

It was learned that one of the men was a pilot who had an airplane at the Brawley airport. It was also determined that the two suspects were planning to use the aircraft “to further their smuggling operation,” the statement read.

Creiglow said he did not know whether the two undocumented immigrants that had been dropped off that day were actually flown in.

But Creiglow said the aircraft is a Piper II, which is a single-engine aircraft.

Brawley Public Works Director Yasmin Arellano said she never heard of any past connection between the smuggling of undocumented immigrants and the local airport.

But Creiglow said there had been an aircraft seizure at the Brawley Airport in August 2010 and another in 2011 but it was not clear whether that one involved the Brawley airport.

Neither name of the two suspects Border Patrol agents arrested was made available but Creiglow said the U.S. Attorney’s Office is still investigating the matter.

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