Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.
You've probably heard a lousy American economy has reduced illegal immigration passions from Mexico into the United States, but that story isn't the reality in ongoing human smuggling cases in Orange County.
Consider the case of Ensenada, Mexico resident Timothy John Sweeney, a native of Rockford, Illinois and divorced father of two teenage daughters.
Late one night in November 2011, Newport Beach harbor patrol deputies from the Orange County Sheriff's Department spotted a white, 24-foot Bayliner boat in restricted waters at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station.
Sweeney, who'd been caught illegally smuggling individuals into San Diego County in 2010 and received punishment of incarceration for six months, was the captain of the Bayliner carrying eight Mexican men and one Mexican woman, according to a Coast Guard Investigative Service report reviewed by the Weekly.
The desire to enter the U.S. was so strong that some of the Mexicans were willing to pay Sweeney, now 48 years old, as much as $10,000 each for last year's eight hour boat trip to Long Beach.
Days before the boat capture, one of the smuggled Mexicans, Heidy Infante-Marin from Guerrero, had been caught trying to use false identification to illegally enter the U.S. at an official port of entry near San Diego. While Infante-Marin was being detained she met a woman who told her about Sweeney's boat operation. She agreed to pay $10,000 in hopes of eventually reaching San Francisco.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna concluded that he could punish Sweeney with between 21 and 27 months in prison.
Selna decided the low-end sentence was fair plus three years of federal supervision upon his release from custody.
Sweeney, who has a substance abuse problem, wants to return to live in Mexico while he's on probation, but Selna left that decision up to the U.S. Probation Office, according to court records.
U.S. marshals have custody of Sweeney inside the Santa Ana Jail, but he'll eventually be bused to a federal prison.