A 10-year LAPD officer and a second person were charged by federal prosecutors Monday with trying to smuggle a Mexican citizen into the United States in the trunk of a car at the Otay Mesa border crossing.
Officer Carlos Curiel Quezada Jr., 34, and Angelica Godinez, 31, were stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers Saturday evening when they drove a white 2014 Nissan Juke through the border crossing.
The pair showed their passports and said they were headed to Mission Hills, according to the federal charging document. But when the car was inspected by a device that acts like an X-ray machine at a secondary inspection point, authorities noticed something unusual about the trunk.
When law enforcement popped the trunk, they found Antanasio Perez-Avalos, 26, hiding in the spare tire compartment, according to federal prosecutors.
Perez-Avalos “is a Mexican citizen with no legal ability to enter the United States,” U.S. Customs officials said.
Quezada and Godinez were charged with bringing in a person without presenting them to an appropriate immigration officer at a port of entry, according to the criminal complaint.
At a federal courtroom in San Diego on Monday, both pleaded not guilty, and Quezada's bail was set at $20,000. It was unclear if bail was set for Godinez.
Quezada, meanwhile, has been assigned to his home on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation by the LAPD, said Officer Rosario Herrera. Quezada was stationed with the department’s Hollywood Division, she said.
The arrest was just one incident in what has been a turbulent few days for the department. On Monday, Pomona officials issued an arrest warrant for murder for a rookie LAPD officer with the department's Devonshire Division in connection with a weekend shooting.
On Sunday, officials said two plainclothes officers were targeted by gunmen in South L.A. The two suffered minor injuries and three men have been detained.
Times staff writer Tony Perry contributed to this report.
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