San Diego BEST Combats Human Smuggling and Trafficking

Every day, human smuggling and trafficking groups like the CARLOS human smuggling organization attempt to illegally bring people across U.S. borders. Organized, adaptive and vicious, these groups have little regard for human life and even less respect for the law.

Unfortunately for these criminals, the special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are dedicated to combating them on every front and are tireless in their defense of our nation's security.

This point was highlighted when special agents with the ICE HSI-led San Diego Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) successfully executed four federal residential search warrants, two vehicle search warrants, eight criminal arrest warrants, and nine administrative arrests in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Jacumba, Calif., on Nov. 16.

The operation culminated a complex human smuggling investigation that began in June 2010. It was led by the ICE HSI office in Santa Ana, Calif., and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Border Patrol. Special agents focused on members of the CARLOS human smuggling organization, which was responsible for at least 60 human smuggling events. One of those arrested was the leader of the CARLOS human smuggling organization, Gil Reyes-Cruz.

"The San Diego BEST's mission is to identify, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security," said Erik Cortes, unit chief, National BEST Unit. "Our special agents and task force members employ the full range of ICE's authorities and those of their respective agencies to enforce federal, state and international laws that secure our borders and combat transnational crime."

BESTs were formed throughout the U.S. and in Mexico in response to surges in cross-border crime and violence by Mexican drug cartels and criminal smuggling organizations employing predatory tactics to realize profits. Each BEST is a multi-agency team consisting of ICE HSI special agents and federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement counterparts.

"San Diego and other BEST units attack and dismantle transnational criminal organizations from the top leadership down to their supporting elements," said Cortes. "In short, we take the fight to transnational criminal organizations and deny them all havens of operation."

Since their inception, BEST investigators have collectively initiated more than 5,980 cases. These actions have resulted in more than 7,273 criminal and 5,778 administrative arrests, and seizures of more than 663,764 pounds of illicit drugs and $83.5 million in currency.

Learn more about BESTs.

SOURCE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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