San Diego

Driver Sentenced for Fleeing U.S. Border Patrol While Transporting Illegal Immigrants

The judge said the case was at the "very aggravated end of the spectrum"

A driver who fled U.S. Border Patrol agents through Otay Mesa and crashed while transporting illegal immigrants was sentenced to 48 months in prison Monday.

Miguel Angel Tejada-Loaiza, 21, a Mexican citizen without status in the U.S., was driving six other unauthorized immigrants near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry after they crossed over from Mexico to San Diego, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns emphasized the "callous" nature of Tejada-Loaiza's actions. When compared to other illegal human smuggling crimes, he said, "This case is at the very aggravated end of the spectrum."

While fleeing the authorities on April 23, Tejada-Loaiza made a sharp turn and crashed his car into a guard rail, ejecting two of his passengers. They were hospitalized for several weeks with serious injuries, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

One of the injured passengers required emergency back surgery and was on a ventilator for over three weeks. The other was a minor who suffered lacerations on his face and body.

It happened when U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted his Ford Expedition car parked in a location that was detected with a seismic intrusion device, according to the report. An agent heard yelling coming from the vehicle and observed the driver, Tejada-Loaiza, gesture to other people to get in his car.

They took off in pursuit of Tejada-Loaiza and tried to pull him over. But he abruptly turned onto a north-bound road and continued speeding faster, refusing to yield. He reached speeds of about 75 mph, stated the U.S. Attorney's office.

Tejada-Loaiza pleaded guilty to illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain on May 23. He admitted that he knew he was violating laws and the immigrants were paying him as much as $5,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.

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