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Border Patrol agents seize $90K in heroin, arrest convicted sex offender over weekend

Agents found 8 1/2 pounds of heroin inside a fake car battery, arrested three people in a SUV after a pursuit and detained four people walking near Tecate, including a convicted sex offender. Agents also detained 25 suspected unauthorized immigrants in three separate incidents along the coast.

Border Patrol agents in the San Diego County communities of Pine Valley, San Ysidro and Tecate over the weekend seized more than eight pounds of heroin, arrested three people in a fleeing SUV and detained a convicted sex offender who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.

Officials discussed the three incidents, which occurred between Friday and Sunday, in a news release that noted it had been an “eventful weekend” of enforcement.

In a separate news release Tuesday, Border Patrol officials said they also detained 25 unauthorized immigrants Sunday in three alleged ocean-smuggling incidents off the coast of San Diego County. As many as 17 suspected unauthorized immigrants may have escaped capture in one of the incidents in Mission Bay.

In the first land-based incident, a 23-year-old man driving on Interstate 8 at the checkpoint near Pine Valley around noon Friday was told to go to secondary inspection after a drug-sniffing dog indicated his Cadillac might be carrying narcotics.

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Agents searched the vehicle and found four packages of heroin inside a fake battery. The driver and the drugs, with an estimated street value of $89,700, were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The vehicle was seized.

The second incident occurred shortly before 9:30 p.m. Saturday, when agents spotted a person jumping into the backseat of an SUV about a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border. They tried to pull the Nissan Pathfinder over but the driver sped off on southbound Interstate 5, heading toward San Ysidro.

Agents broke off the chase but Customs and Border Protection officers stopped the SUV before it entered Mexico.

Agents arrested a U.S. citizen who was driving and his two passengers, a 43-year-old Mexican citizen and a 29-year-old Honduran citizen. The driver is facing criminal prosecution and the two others were processed for removal, officials said.

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In the third case highlighted, agents on Sunday morning came across four men hiding in brush near the Tecate Port of Entry who were determined to have crossed illegally into the U.S., said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jeffery Stephenson.

All four were taken to a Border Patrol station for processing and a records check conducted there showed that one man in the group, a 63-year-old Mexican national, had several criminal convictions for sexual assault. He is to be prosecuted on suspicion of reentering the country after deportation.

About 2 p.m. Sunday, Coast Guard officials noticed a suspicious vessel off the coast and intercepted the 25-foot pleasure craft near Pepper Tree Park Marina in National City, said San Diego Sector Border Patrol spokeswoman Mary Beth Caston. Agents determined the nine men and three women aboard the boat were all Mexican citizens who entered the country without permission.

Two of the boat’s occupants were arrested on suspicion of smuggling, Caston said.

Around 5:30 p.m. the same day, Border Patrol agents spotted a 32-foot Sea Ray craft pulled up to a dock in Mission Bay, with close to 30 people spilling out of it, officials said.

“Agents apprehended 11 out the 28 people seen running from the boat,” Caston said in a statement. “After an extensive search, agents were unable to locate the remaining people.”

Then around 9 p.m. Sunday, Coast Guard officials notified Border Patrol agents of a small personal watercraft heading north from the border that passed the Imperial Beach Pier about one mile from the coast, Caston said. Agents responded and found two people, including a pregnant woman, who’d been dropped off on the beach.

Agents detained both people, though the driver of the personal watercraft escaped.

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Kucher and Riggins write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Updates:
4:57 PM, Aug. 13, 2019: This story was updated with details about the three alleged ocean-based smuggling events.

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