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Fri, Oct. 18

YCSO nabs 12 illegal immigrants on I-17

A traffic stop on I-17 in Yavapai County on Wednesday led to the detention of 12 illegal immigrants, while the human smuggling suspect escaped on foot.

A Yavapai County Sheriff's Office deputy stopped a Nissan pick-up truck with a fully enclosed truck bed cover regarding a vehicle registration and equipment violation at milepost 260. When the deputy contacted the driver, he noticed six additional occupants crammed inside the cab of the truck. The driver indicated he did not speak English well and was unlicensed.

The driver was questioned further while standing alongside the sheriff's vehicle. He identified himself as 21-year-old Francisco Mateo-Sanchez and indicated he was heading to Flagstaff. Sanchez had no paperwork to verify the given name, according to investigators.

With another deputy present, the handling deputy approached the truck to check underneath the bed cover for additional passengers. As the deputy began lifting the bed cover, the driver suddenly darted across northbound lanes of I-17, continued across southbound lanes, and into the desert out of sight. An assisting deputy was prevented from chasing the driver because of oncoming traffic.

After lifting the bed cover, deputies found six additional passengers lying head to toe in the truck's cargo bed. The cover had been propped open with a couple of bricks and had a belt affixed to the opening mechanism so the cover could be held down.

Deputies contacted Immigrations and Custom Enforcement Officers (ICE), who conducted phone interviews and determined all the occupants were illegal aliens and authorized immigration holds. All 12 subjects were detained and transported to the Camp Verde jail pending transfer to ICE custody. The vehicle was impounded with intent to file for law enforcement seizure.

During a follow-up investigation, deputies learned that three of the subjects were juveniles and three subjects called Brazil their home country, having decided to enter the U.S. at the Mexico border.

The driver who fled was not located.

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