LAPD officer charged with smuggling 2 people across border

SAN DIEGO -- A Los Angeles police officer accused of trying to smuggle two Mexican citizens into the U.S. illegally through an immigration checkpoint in San Diego County appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

Mambasse Koulabalo Patara pleaded not guilty to a charge of Transportation of Illegal Aliens at his appearance.

Patara, 42, was arrested around 1:30 a.m. on April 24 at the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 8 near Pine Valley.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patara pulled up to the primary inspection area in a black 2006 Toyota Corolla sedan with two men in the car who were later determined to be in the United States illegally.

At the checkpoint, Patara immediately told agents he is a U.S. citizen and an off-duty police officer and showed them a Los Angeles Police Department identification card. Border agents said Patara appeared to be very nervous and was visibly shaking and avoiding eye contact, according to the complaint.

Patara was referred to secondary inspection, where he told agents he was in possession of his department-issued weapon. Agents then seized a pistol concealed in Patara's waistband.

Patara's passengers -- Fermin Lopez, and his nephew, German Ramirez- Gonzalez -- admitted being citizens of Mexico and illegally in the United States, authorities said.

One of the men allegedly admitted he knew Patara and had worked on the police officer's property.

Patara is out on bail and LAPD said he is currently on administrative leave.

Wednesday a federal defender said Patara is currently talking to an attorney in Los Angeles about representing him.

Patara was scheduled to appear back in court on May 24 for his status hearing. The judge also scheduled his motion hearing and trial for June 22.

FOX 5 spoke with Patara off camera and he said that he had no comment at this time.