Man gets prison for smuggling attempt that injured border agent

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego man with a prior conviction for the same offense was sentenced in federal court Friday to more than 3 1/2 years in prison for his admitted role in a human-smuggling attempt that seriously injured a U.S. Border Patrol officer.

Before handing down the 44-month sentence to 38-year-old Jaime Aburto, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard testimony from USBP Agent Francisco Hurtado, who tackled Aburto and wrestled him into submission following a road and foot chase in the far southern reaches of San Diego.

After seeing two suspected undocumented immigrants board a white van in a construction area near the U.S.-Mexico line, Hurtado began tailing the group in his patrol vehicle and tried to pull over the driver — later identified as Aburto — on state Route 11, according to court documents.

Refusing to yield, Aburto accelerated to speeds exceeding 100 mph and merged onto state Route 125.

After making a dangerous U-turn over a center median, running a stoplight, swerving around slower-moving traffic and driving through two busy commercial parking lots, the fleeing suspect steered onto a sidewalk, where the van crashed to a halt against a pole.

At that point, Aburto jumped out of the damaged vehicle and ran off to the south on Roll Avenue, toward Otay Mesa Port of Entry, according to prosecutors. Close behind, Hurtado pulled over and chased the suspect down.

Following a brief struggle, Hurtado was able to overpower Aburto and take him into custody with help from fellow agents.

During the violent arrest, Hurtado suffered significant leg trauma, court documents state. He missed several weeks of work due to the injury and has yet to fully recover his mobility, according to federal officials.

Aburto pleaded guilty in May to one count of human smuggling for financial gain.

“Smugglers see customers as dollar signs and have no concern for the safety and well-being of those they smuggle,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “This office is committed to prosecuting smugglers, particularly when (their crimes result) in an injury to a Border Patrol agent performing his duties.”