Federal prosecutors have quietly dismissed the case against a man accused of smuggling 77 immigrants in the back of a fake UPS truck.
In its request to drop the felony charge, the U.S. attorney's office cited "certain factual issues," saying "the interests of justice warrant dismissal of this case." No further details were given.
"It's an ongoing investigation, and we're not going to comment," U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman Kelly Thornton said.
A magistrate judge approved the dismissal Thursday and authorized the release of Shawn Lee Seiler, 25, from custody.
The case was dismissed "without prejudice," meaning prosecutors could bring charges later if they so choose.
Seiler's attorney did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
A spokesman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection deferred comment to prosecutors, as did the California Highway Patrol, which also was involved in the arrest.
The discovery of so many immigrants being transported into the country would normally trigger a news release from authorities, but the arrest was never publicized.
According to the complaint, a CHP officer pulled over what appeared to be a brown UPS truck about 5 p.m. Jan. 29 in southeastern San Diego County. The truck had been weaving and had no tags, the document states.
A Border Patrol agent driving by came upon the stop and asked the officer if he needed help. Seiler was in the CHP vehicle by then, the complaint states.
The agent observed the truck was riding "extremely low" and had fresh paint on the rear, the complaint says. He also smelled body odor mixed with the scent of a soap popular in Mexico.
Seiler, a U.S. citizen, said the truck was his and gave permission to search, the complaint states. The agent found 77 people — including five minors — inside, sweating heavily and standing shoulder to shoulder.
The complaint says Seiler waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to investigators. He said that he was to be paid $100 for each immigrant he transported and that he was expecting 50 people that night, the court record says.
A UPS spokesman said that Seiler has never worked for the company and that the truck was not a company vehicle.
Seiler was granted $35,000 bond during a detention hearing in San Diego federal court last week — an amount that prosecutors and his defense attorney already had agreed upon and presented to the judge — but he did not post it before the case was dismissed.
The government also charged two immigrants with illegally reentering the U.S. after being previously deported. Those charges were dismissed last week, indicating trouble with the cases.
The rest of the immigrants were being held as material witnesses.
Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune