An ICE sting operation at LAX airport last week caught a long-term airport employee in the process of helping 15 illegal aliens, including two with criminal records who had previously been deported, skirt customs and immigration checks. ICE officials said they didn't know how long the alleged smuggling had been going on, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The employee, Roberto Canchola, had airport security clearances that allowed him to gain access to restricted areas at LAX. He was arrested while guiding Mexicana Airline passengers, all without luggage, through areas that avoided immigration and customs inspectors.
The passengers boarded the flight by presenting passports and permission to travel into the U.S., but discrepancies in their papers were later discovered. The Los Angeles Times quoted an ICE spokesman as saying "These are people with money. They didn't look like people who were coming to pick strawberries." One of the illegal aliens worked as a computer analyst in Los Angeles.
ICE and the U.S. attorney's office are still investigating whether Canchola was part of a larger smuggling ring that used his airport access for smuggling purposes. Canchola had been vetted and cleared by both the airport and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to access restricted areas. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years if convicted.
The airport has since made security adjustments in the federal inspection service area. LAX is considered a top potential target for terrorists in California.
Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:43pm EDT