Wolcott van stop leads to smuggling arrest | AspenTimes.com
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Wolcott van stop leads to smuggling arrest

Steve Lynn
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

WOLCOTT, Colo. ” A van with 13 illegal immigrants was pulled over Monday morning, leading to the arrest of a smuggler who had been deported from the United States 14 times, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

A sheriff’s deputy stopped a silver Chevrolet van headed east on Interstate 70 about 8:20 a.m. because the name of the state on the license plate was covered by a plastic border, the sheriff’s office said.

Israel Robles-Gaytan, 22, was taking 12 illegal immigrants ” several of whom may have been from Mexico ” to Denver, Iowa and Georgia, according to authorities. Charges against Robles-Gaytan include human smuggling, a felony, the sheriff’s office said.

This is the third time deputies have made immigration arrests in the last month.

Another illegal immigrant, Silvestre Bermudez, 37, gave the sheriff’s deputy a false identification card and driver’s license, the sheriff’s office said. He was arrested and charged with possession of a forged instrument, a felony, and second-degree forgery, a misdemeanor.

Both men are being held in Eagle County jail.

The 11 other people have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending deportation, the sheriff’s office said.

The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute another case in which two men had been accused of smuggling illegal immigrants through Eagle County, on Feb. 10, authorities said.

Sheriff’s deputies did not have a valid reason to stop the minivan, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. Also, nobody in the minivan said whether they had paid the accused smugglers for their transportation.

“We didn’t feel we could prove the case,” Hurlbert said.

Hurlbert did not know whether the accused smugglers or illegal immigrants had been deported.

“Generally that’s what happens,” he said. “They would be deported.”

Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, called enforcing state immigration law a “learning process.”

“It was not for lack of trying, I can tell you that,” Cordingly said about enforcing the human smuggling law Feb. 10.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to have more meetings on how to enforce state immigration law, she said.

Two other men were charged with smuggling illegal immigrants into Eagle County in January, the first time local authorities had leveled that charge in the county’s history, authorities said.

Local authorities developed a policy in December that lets them enforce state immigration law passed more than a year ago. In the past, they have complained about the difficulty of enforcing that law.

Under the new policy, people who smuggle illegal immigrants into Eagle County will be prosecuted. Clear Creek County, which Hurlbert also serves, was the first county in Colorado to do that, Hurlbert has said.

Eagle County’s new policy lets prosecutors depose, or get witnesses’ versions of a smuggling incident, within 72 hours, after which Immigration and Customs generally deports them. The policy has helped better punish human smugglers in Summit and Clear Creek counties, Hurlbert said.

slynn@vaildaily.com


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