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Some Gamblers Lured to Transport People

21 December 2004

SAN DIEGO, California -- As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune: "The casinos that have sprung up throughout San Diego County are islands of light and activity tucked into the backcountry, attracting seniors, tourists, even truckers with Vegas-style gambling, buffets and shows.

"But thanks to their locations near the border, some casinos in recent years have attracted another element found in the region's deserts and mountains: immigrant smugglers, who take advantage of the crowds and the easy come, easy go of money to recruit down-and-out gamblers.

"Federal agents say smugglers look for people who appear down on their luck to drive undocumented immigrants across the border or pick up those who crossed on foot.

"The smugglers promise quick cash and a slim chance of prosecution, an offer some gamblers find hard to resist.

"This is just one way these groups have used some casinos as convenient places for conducting business. The parking lots of casinos such as the Golden Acorn and Viejas, favored because of their proximity to Interstate 8, have been used as staging areas for smuggling operations, according to federal agents and court documents.

"...Smugglers typically approach a gambler who has been observed losing money

"...Immigration authorities say the casinos they have worked with generally have been helpful in reporting smuggling-related incidents..."

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