A reserve deputy sheriff of Imperial County has been charged with smuggling illegal immigrants in the trunk of her car as she drove through a checkpoint wearing her uniform, the office of U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy confirmed.
El Centro, Calif., resident and three-year reserve deputy sheriff Elizabeth Hernandez, 23, and Edna Calderon, 22, were charged on Thursday with transportation of illegal aliens and aiding and abetting.
According to court documents, Hernandez and Calderon allegedly picked up three illegal aliens at a fast food restaurant in Calexico, Calif., on Wednesday.
Border Patrol agents in the area became suspicious of their vehicle and began following at a distance.
Agents watched as Calderon drove the suspected illegal aliens to Hernandez’s home. Court documents allege that Hernandez then instructed the three people to hide in the trunk of her car.
The women, driving separate cars, then cleared a checkpoint with Hernandez wearing her deputy sheriff uniform and department-issued firearm. Court records say Hernandez wore her uniform because she expected to be waved through the Highway 86 checkpoint by Border Patrol agents.
After crossing the checkpoint, investigators say Hernandez and Calderon reunited at a nearby gas station where they transferred two of the three illegal aliens into Calderon’s car. The women were still unknowingly under Border Patrol surveillance.
As Hernandez left the gas station, agents stopped her car and Calderon’s vehicle and discovered the three illegal aliens inside the cars. Hernandez and Calderon were arrested.
The defendants were arraigned and charged in court on Thursday. They’re scheduled to appear in court again on Apr. 23 for a detention hearing and on May 2 for a preliminary hearing.
Both Hernandez and Calderon face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.