Border Patrol steps up search for convicted smuggler - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Border Patrol steps up search for convicted smuggler

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CHULA VISTA (CNS) - The U.S. Border Patrol announced Wednesday it is dedicating extra officers to an enforcement operation aimed at arresting a convicted smuggler suspected of assaulting one of its agents earlier this month.

The operation centers on arresting Martel Valencia-Cortez, 39, a convicted smuggler the Border Patrol claims has resumed his illegal operation smuggling people across the international border.

Agents are working to shut down the smuggling corridor in the eastern parts of San Diego County and the western edge of Imperial County operated by Valencia-Cortez.

Valencia-Cortez is said to be extremely dangerous with a complete disregard for human life, according to the Border Patrol. He is the primary suspect in the Nov. 15 assault on a Border Patrol agent near Jacumba, where the officer was hit in the face with a softball-sized rock during a chase.

Valencia-Cortez carries a gun and has gone to dangerous and great lengths to avoid arrest, including driving the wrong way on a freeway, authorities said.

"Martel Valencia-Cortez is the top priority target for San Diego Sector," San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Richard Barlow said.

"To the fullest extent that we can, we will devote our agents and resources in focused areas to put pressure on him until he is in custody."

The Border Patrol said its efforts will involve a surge of personnel patrolling east San Diego County where Valencia-Cortez is believed to be harbored, possibly by one of his known associates.

Agents said they recently discovered Valencia-Cortez is affiliated with a lieutenant with the Sinaloa Cartel known as "El Tigre."

Valencia-Cortez is described as 5 foot 11 inches tall, 205 pounds, and has black hair, brown eyes and a tattoo on his right shoulder. He is considered to be armed and dangerous.

The Border Patrol asked anyone with information regarding Valencia- Cortez to call the San Diego Sector Border Intelligence Center at (619) 216- 4180.

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