Feds drop case against alleged driver of fake UPS truck carrying 77 unauthorized immigrants

Federal prosecutors have quietly dismissed the case against a man accused of smuggling 77 unauthorized immigrants in the back of a fake UPS truck in Boulevard last week.

In its request to drop the felony charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office cited “certain factual issues,” saying “the interests of justice warrant dismissal of this case.” No further details are given.

“It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re not going to comment,” said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Kelly Thornton.

A magistrate judge approved the dismissal on Thursday afternoon and authorized the release of Shawn Lee Seiler, 25, from custody.

The case is dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors could bring the charges again later if they so choose.

Seiler’s attorney declined to comment.

A spokesman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection deferred comment to prosecutors, as did the California Highway Patrol, which was also involved in the arrest.

The discovery of so many unauthorized immigrants would have normally triggered a news release from authorities, but strangely the arrest was never publicized.

According to the complaint, a CHP officer pulled over what appeared to be a brown UPS truck on Jan. 29 about 5 p.m. The truck had been weaving on Old Highway 80 and had no tags, the document states.

A Border Patrol agent driving by came upon the stop and asked the officer if he needed help. Seiler, accused of being the truck’s driver, was already in the CHP vehicle by then, the complaint states.

The agent observed the truck was riding “extremely low” and had fresh paint on the rear, the complaint says. He also smelled body odor mixed with the scent of a soap popular in Mexico.

Seiler, who is a U.S. citizen, said the truck was his and gave permission to search, the complaint states. The agent found 77 people — including five minors — inside, sweating heavily and standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

The complaint says Seiler waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to investigators. He said he was to be paid $100 for each unauthorized immigrant he transported, and that he was expecting 50 people that night, the court record says.

A UPS spokesman told the Union-Tribune that Seiler has never worked for the company and that the truck was not a real UPS vehicle.

Seiler was granted $35,000 bond during a detention hearing in San Diego federal court last Friday — an amount that prosecutors and his defense attorney had already agreed upon and presented to the judge — but did not post it before the case was dismissed.

The government had also criminally charged two unauthorized immigrants with being prior deportees. Those charges were dismissed last week, indicating trouble with the case.

The rest of the unauthorized immigrants were being held as material witnesses in the case.

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @kristinadavis

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