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Alleged smuggling-ring members charged with using boats to ferry immigrants from Mexico into L.A. area [Updated]

May 2, 2011 |  5:22 pm

An alleged ringleader and three accomplices charged with using a boat to smuggle illegal immigrants from Mexico into Southern California were making appearances Monday afternoon in federal court.

Mario Echeverria, 24, a United States citizen who lives in Tijuana, is charged with being one of the leaders of a large-scale smuggling ring that used panga-style boats to smuggle the immigrants, according to federal authorities.

Last week, the smugglers dropped off illegal immigrants at a beach in Carlsbad in San Diego County and took them by van to a drop house in Anaheim, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Investigators with a multi-agency task force raided the apartment Friday and found nine illegal immigrants from Mexico whose clothes were still wet and caked with sand.

Also charged were Mexican residents Javier Gomez-Dominguez, 30, the alleged caretaker of the drop house, as well as Jose Sevilla, 26, the suspected captain of the boat, and his navigator, Fernando Medina-Gonzalez, 43.

The four men were making an initial appearance in federal court to determine whether a bond would be issued and they would be released from custody, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said. They were not scheduled to enter pleas.

[Updated 6:52 p.m.: The four men were ordered detained and are expected to be arraigned in three weeks, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.]


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