Friday, March 13, 2009

Woman from pursuit suspected of human smuggling

Driver led authorities on a chase that spanned Orange County on Thursday.

The Orange County Register

A woman who allegedly entered the country illegally could face criminal charges after authorities say she smuggled at least two people into the United States and then led police on a high-speed chase that spanned Orange County.

The woman and two people are in Department of Homeland Security custody. Border Patrol spokesman Julius Alatorre said the woman allegedly smuggled the two others into the country.

Alatorre would not release the names of the suspects or say what country they were believed to be from.

The suspects were in a Volvo station wagon, police said. Border Patrol agents started the pursuit at their checkpoint on I-5 freeway near San Onofre at around 5 p.m. Thursday, Alatorre said.

The California Highway Patrol was notified of the pursuit at 5:11 p.m. and took over on the northbound 73 Toll Road, where speeds exceeded 100 mph, CHP Officer Gabe Montoya said.

After the Volvo merged onto the northbound I-405 freeway, it was temporarily slowed by traffic, Montoya said.

Three people got out of the vehicle and fled on foot on the northbound 405 near Fairview Avenue, Montoya said. Authorities caught two of those people, but the third remains at large, Alatorre said.

The driver continued northbound on the 405 until she was near the Los Angeles County line, where she pulled alongside the center divider, exited the vehicle and attempted to jump across the divider into the southbound lanes, Montoya said.

CHP officers apprehended the woman at that point, Montoya said.

The case will be filed with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the driver could face federal charges, Alatorre said. If she is convicted and has a history of other crimes, she could be sent to federal prison before being deported, Alatorre said.

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