Arrest is praised by U.S. authorities

San Diego Union Tribune, CA
Aug 25 2004

Arrest is praised by U.S. authorities

By Anna Cearley

TIJUANA – A man suspected of running a people-smuggling operation
along the California border was arrested yesterday by Mexican federal
agents in Mexicali.

Agustín Chan Montoya was “one of the most sought-after people
smugglers” in the area for U.S and Mexican authorities, said Abraham
Sarabia, spokesman for the Mexican attorney general’s office in

Mexican federal authorities said Chan also had been smuggling
non-Mexicans. Authorities were exploring a connection between him and
a group of eight Iranians and Armenians detained in Mexicali last
week after a tip from U.S. authorities.

U.S. authorities praised the arrest of Chan, who is in his mid-30s.
Smuggling organizations of the type Chan is accused of operating are
believed to move thousands of people illegally into the United States
each year.

“It’s a very significant arrest in the eyes of U.S. law enforcement
authorities,” said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. “This is certainly someone who has been on our
radar screen.”

This was Chan’s second arrest in 20 months. He was captured in
January 2003 on an arrest warrant in Mexicali after a coordinated
investigation between U.S. and Mexican authorities, but he was
released from prison. It wasn’t clear if a judge had dismissed the
case or if Chan served a short sentence.

Immigrants caught in the Imperial Valley by U.S. Border Patrol agents
this year identified Chan through photos as the smuggler who had
arranged their trip, according to the latest Mexican arrest warrant.

The migrants, who were from various parts of Mexico, had used an
inflatable raft to cross a canal from Mexicali into the United
States. Their statements were taken by an official with the Mexican
attorney general’s office, which used them to build another case
against Chan.

The migrants said Chan “treated them in a violent and aggressive
manner and said that if they were captured to not implicate him or
his associates or else they would make their families suffer,”
according to the arrest warrant.

Mack wouldn’t say whether Chan’s arrest was a development from last
week’s detentions in Mexicali. Two of the detainees, U.S. citizens of
Iranian and Armenian descent who were presumed to be involved in a
smuggling operation, were deported to the United States.

Chan’s arrest “is part of the continuing cooperative effort between
U.S. and Mexican law enforcement on both sides of the border to
investigate smuggling activities in Mexicali,” Mack said. “It
definitely will be continuing.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress