NILAND, Calif. — It was a special delivery indeed — 13 suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico stuffed in a phony UPS van.
The U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday that agents stopped the van Friday as the driver tried to circumvent a highway checkpoint near Niland, about 150 miles east of San Diego in California’s Imperial Valley, near the Mexican border.
The van looked like a legitimate United Parcel Service Inc. delivery vehicle, except the company decal on the back door was slightly crooked.
The driver, U.S. citizen Daniel Lopez, was charged in federal court in El Centro with illegal transportation of aliens, authorities said.
Carlos Goens, the driver of another truck, was charged with the same crime after being detained at a Border Patrol checkpoint. He is suspected of coordinating with the UPS van.
Migrants told authorities they had agreed to pay between $5,000 and $8,000 each to be smuggled into the United States, according to the criminal complaint.
An agent reported seeing Goens leave a suspected stash house for illegal immigrants in the town of Brawley, leading authorities to the UPS vehicle. Another agent pulled over the UPS van at a mobile home park in Niland.
Attorneys for Goens and Lopez did not immediately respond to phone messages Wednesday.