A Los Angeles police officer accused of trying to smuggle a man into the U.S. in the trunk of his car will be held on a $20,000 bond, a federal judge ordered.
Carlos Curiel Quezada Jr., 34, made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in San Diego Monday afternoon.
Quezada, handcuffed and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was seated two seats away from the woman with whom he was returning from Mexico, 31-year-old Angelica Godinez.
Both are charged with “bringing in illegal alien without presentation.”
Asked by U.S. Magistrate William Gallo if he understood the charge against him, he answered, “I do, sir.”
Quezada and Godinez, both U.S. citizens, were arrested Saturday at the Otay Mesa border crossing after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers directed them to a secondary inspection and sent their car through a giant x-ray machine, according to prosecutors.
Officers discovered a man, identified as 26-year-old Antanasio Perez-Avalos, hiding in the spare tire area of Quezada’s trunk, the CBP alleges. Perez-Avalos had no legal ability to enter the U.S.
“It’s a very serious act of misconduct if it’s true,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told NBC.
LAPD Cdr. Andrew Smith said Monday an internal investigation has been launched into the incident.
“Whenever an employee is arrested, their commanding officer responds,” said Smith. “So when one of our employees gets in trouble in any other jurisdiction, we'll send a commanding officer down there to begin the investigation, contact the employee, make sure they're OK and initiate personnel complaint, an internal personnel complaint."
A 10-year veteran of the LAPD, Quezada is on probation at the department on a suspected DUI charge from 2014, according to prosecutors. He makes $4,800 a month but said that he is concerned he will not be able to return to his job or afford a lawyer.
Smith said Quezada will not be returning to duty until this case is adjudicated – both on the criminal side and LAPD side.
Gallo told him that based on his financial affidavit, he might be able to pay a portion of his attorney’s bill.
Quezada, who lives with his parents in Los Angeles, cannot go to Mexico or travel outside of southern and central California and must surrender his passport.
Godinez is also being held on a $20,000 bond. The mother of a 14-year-old, she has two convictions for DUI, according to prosecutors. Like Quezada, she cannot go to Mexico and must surrender her passport.
Few details were revealed in court about Quezada’s relationship with the man in the trunk or with Godinez.
Both defendants are expected back in court on April 9 for their preliminary hearing.
NBC's Tena Ezzeddine contributed to this report.