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Illegal immigrants disguised as U.S. Marines fail to get through border checkpoint

March 22, 2011 |  5:30 pm

Photo: Illegal Immigrants posing as US Marines arrested at border checkpoint. Credit: Department of Homeland Security Thirteen illegal immigrants disguised themselves as U.S. Marines –- donning battle dress uniforms and caps -- in a failed attempt to get through a  U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint last week east of San Diego, authorities said.

The driver of the white van carrying the immigrants and another man, both U.S. citizens, were arrested  March 14 at the I-8 checkpoint near Campo and charged with alien smuggling, according to U.S. Border Patrol officials.

Three of the illegal immigrants were detained as witnesses, while the rest were returned to Mexico, officials said.

The van drew suspicion in part because it had an altered U.S. Government license plate, authorities said. The investigation is being conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The immigrants all had Marine-style haircuts and the name tag "Perez" on the their camouflage uniforms, U.S. Marine Corps officials said.

Such ploys have a long history along the border. Over the years, immigrants have disguised themselves as hard-hatted contractors and utility repairmen, and smugglers have painted and placed decals on cars to look like Border Patrol or other government vehicles.

-- Richard Marosi and Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Illegal immigrants posing as U.S. Marines are arrested at the border checkpoint. Credit: Department of Homeland Security