Border Patrol agents recently arrested 13 illegal immigrants disguised as U.S. Marines and riding in a fake military van, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday.
The illegal immigrants were clad in Marine uniforms when they were apprehended at the Campo Border Patrol Westbound I-8 checkpoint at 11 p.m. on March 14 near Pine Valley, Calif., border officials said. Two U.S. citizens in the van also were arrested.
After the suspicious white van was subjected to secondary inspection, it was determined that the driver of the vehicle and its front seat passenger were U.S. citizens who were attempting to smuggle 13 illegal immigrants into the United States. All of the vehicle's occupants wore U.S. Marine uniforms, reportedly emblazoned with the name "Perez."
"This effort is an example of the lengths smugglers will go to avoid detection, and the skilled and effective police work and vigilance displayed everyday by Customs and Border Protection personnel," the agency said in a written statement.
The van used in the smuggling attempt, according to California's El Centro Border Intelligence Center, was a privately owned vehicle registered out of Yucca Valley, Calif., and was bearing stolen government plates that had been defaced. The center digit -- 0 -- was altered to read as an 8. Further research through multiple government agencies determined that the plate belonged to a one-ton cargo van registered to the U.S. Marine Corps.
The military referred inquiries back to Customs and Border Protection.
The van entered into the United States via Mexicali, Mexico, and proceeded to Calexico, Calif., where the U.S. Marine uniforms were donned, according to Homeland Security Today.
The Campo Border Station was constructed in June 2008 and is located roughly 28 miles east of San Diego Sector Headquarters in rural East San Diego County. It is responsible for securing approximately 13.1 linear miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and 417 square miles of surrounding territory. An estimated 7,000 vehicles pass through its two checkpoints daily, according to its website.