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Another ultralight plane drops illegal cargo, this time smuggling humans, Border Patrol says

For the second time in two days, an ultralight aircraft was used in an illegal cross-border operation, this time to smuggle two Chinese nationals into the U.S., according to Customs and Border Protection.

The latest incident occurred around 2 a.m. Tuesday when agents were made aware that an ultralight plane had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border agents tracked the plane to a remote area near Calipatria, southeast of the Salton Sea, where they spotted a 2004 Dodge Neon and came across two Chinese nationals and a Mexican man they suspect was there to pick up the pair.

All three were taken into custody. Officials said the Mexican national was legally in the U.S. but was not a resident.

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The alleged human trafficking operation comes just 48 hours after border agents seized 129 pounds of meth worth $1.4 million and a getaway bicycle that had been dropped off by a similar aircraft near Calexico.

The ultralight flyers are not an unusual sight for border patrol agents, but in recent years, they’ve been noticing the planes more.

“In some years more than others,” said Border Patrol Agent Jose Enriquez Jr., a spokesman for CBP. “It goes to show you the lengths they’ll go to smuggle people and narcotics.”

Oftentimes, the small, one- or two-seat fixed-wing aircrafts are used for drug trafficking, but on occasion, they are used to smuggle people. Enriquez said aside from the lawnmower sound they produce, detecting the planes can be difficult.

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“As low as they fly, they’re hard to spot with the human eye,” he said.

He said the ultralights can travel as far north as the Salton Sea, where Border Patrol agents have been known to bust drug smuggling operations.

ruben.vives@latimes.com

For more Southern California news, follow @latvives on Twitter.


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