Ariz. man with 'trusted traveler' status arrested for smuggling attempt

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

NOGALES, Ariz. -- A Nogales, Ariz., man with "trusted traveler" status was arrested Wednesday for attempting to smuggle a Mexican national into the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Nogales arrested Juan Carlos Chavez, 27, after finding a 34-year-old Mexican woman in the trunk of his Ford sedan, according to officials.

Chavez had initially been referred for secondary inspection after being unable to open his trunk during a cursory inspection. It turned out the trunk did not have an internal release and the woman had to be removed by lowering the back seat, officials said.

Officers revoked Chavez's Secure Electronic Network for Traveler’s Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) membership.

SENTRI allows members access to a dedicated commuter lane that expedites the inspection process for low-risk travelers. Qualification for the program requires an extensive background check and in-person interview.

"SENTRI members are treated with a higher level of trust, but are not exempt from inspection," said Port Director Guadalupe Ramirez. "Violations, such as alien smuggling, will not be tolerated. Those attempting to exploit the program will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The woman was held as a material witness in the case. Chavez was transferred for federal prosecution.