A Los Angeles police officer was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly trying to smuggle two illegal immigrants into the U.S.
According to CBS Los Angeles, Mambasse Koulabalo Patara was arrested on federal charges after he was caught violating immigration law in order to bring two men across the southeastern San Diego County border.
The federal complaint was filed on Wednesday and stated that Patara was arrested at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley, which is located roughly 12 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The document also details the incident, claiming that Patara had driven up to the checkpoint with two other men in his 2006 Toyota Corolla around 12:15 a.m.
While being questioned by Border Patrol agents, Patara showed his LAPD badge and said that he was “off-duty,” but agents later found his service-issued gun during a pat-down.
Patara allegedly told the agents that both of his passengers, Herman Lopez and his nephew German Ramirez-Gonzalez, were citizens of the U.S. though eventually, they admitted to being illegal immigrants.
Border patrol agents stated that the two passengers had given conflicting statements regarding their relationship with Patara and their reason for coming to the U.S.
Ramirez-Gonzalez said that his uncle had crossed into the U.S. six days earlier, adding that he had worked for the police officer and had known him for five years.
Ramirez-Gonzalez added that the three men had previously gambled at a few casinos on Monday and that they were headed back to Los Angeles.
However, Lopez reportedly stated that he and Ramirez-Gonzalez had crossed the border the previous day before arriving at the Golden Acorn Casino, where they allegedly persuaded an unknown person to give them a ride into the U.S.
Neither of the men, who were Mexican citizens, claimed to have made smuggling arrangments with the California officer.
The three men were arrested at 1:30 a.m. and eventually taken to the Campo Border Patrol Station.
A spokesperson for the LAPD stated that the agency’s captains have been made aware of the arrest and that the matter was officially under investigation by the Internal Affairs Division.
Citing an open case, the spokesperson declined to comment on other specifics.
The two Mexican citizens remained in U.S. custody on Thursday as material witnesses and, if charged, Patara himself could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Back at his home in Fontana, those who knew the officer were in disbelief about the situation and the accusations against Patara.
“I heard what happened, and I’m really shocked,” one woman said. “They’ve always just been a really nice family ever since my husband and I have lived here.”
“There’s always multiple sides to every story,” she added. “So I think that’s important for everyone to keep in mind … before jumping to conclusions on these types of things.”
“I just don’t believe that he’s doing that,” another neighbor said. “I don’t believe at all that he’s capable of doing something like that.”
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