San Diego

Son of Mexican Mariachi Star Accused of Human Smuggling at San Diego Border

Jose Emiliano Aguilar, 24, son of mariachi star Pepe Aguilar, was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing on March 14 after agents discovered four undocumented Chinese nationals crammed into the trunk of his car

A man accused of trying to smuggle four undocumented Chinese nationals crammed in the trunk of his car across the U.S.-Mexico border into San Diego has been identified as the son of a famous Mexican mariachi musician.

Jose Emiliano Aguilar, 24 – son of Grammy Award-winner Pepe Aguilar – was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers on March 14 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Jose Aguilar allegedly arranged to smuggle the immigrants into the U.S. under a deal in which they would each pay him between $3,000 and $60,000 if they successfully entered the country, according to a complaint filed in federal court.

The complaint said Jose Aguilar drove through a border checkpoint just after 5:45 p.m. on March 14 in a Chrysler 200, accompanied by woman in the passenger seat.

Jose Aguilar, a U.S. citizen, showed his passport to CBP officers, while his passenger showed officers her Border Crossing Card. The documents state Aguilar told officers they were headed to San Diego and had nothing to declare from Mexico.

During a routine primary inspection of the car, a K-9 alerted officers to the trunk. Officers told Jose Aguilar to unlock it; inside the small space were four undocumented Chinese nationals, three women and one man, officials said. Aguilar and his companion were detained while CBP officers removed the people from the trunk.

They were questioned as “material witnesses” and, according to documents, admitted they were citizens of China without lawful documents to enter the U.S.

They had each made their own smuggling arrangements with Jose Aguilar, agreeing to pay him to help them get into the U.S. Two of the Chinese nationals said they planned to head to Los Angeles, while the other two said they were headed to New York City.

Jose Aguilar faces federal charges on suspicion of human smuggling.

A document filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of California shows he was released on a bond of $15,000. His bond conditions include that he not travel to Mexico and that he not possess any drugs or firearms. He must also report to supervision to a Pretrial Services Agency.

Additional conditions outlined for Jose Aguilar that he must undergo psychiatric or psychological counseling, he must “actively seek and maintain full-time employment, schooling, or combination of both,” and must live with his mother. He must also surrender his passport and cannot apply for new travel documents.

NBC 7 reached out to his San Diego-based attorney, Jeremy Warren, Friday for comment on this case.

Warren confirmed Jose Aguilar's relation to Pepe, but said this case has nothing to do with the mariachi singer. The attorney released this statement to NBC 7:

"We understand the interest in our client Jose Aguilar because of his father’s musical career. However, this case has nothing to do with Pepe Aguilar. Jose Aguilar is young man who will address this matter in court, and not in the press. We understand that Pepe Aguilar will provide a statement shortly. In the meantime, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy."

The prosecutor in this case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Blanca Quintero told NBC 7 the U.S. Attorney's Office would not be commenting any further at this time.

Records show Jose Aguilar is scheduled to be arraigned in court on April 13.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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