By GABRIELA RICO
Two teenage girls who led police on a high-speed chase from Benson to Tucson were arrested Monday night with a stolen sport utility vehicle full of illegal immigrants, authorities said.
Adriana Sanchez Aguirre, 19, of Baja California, Mexico, and a 16-year-old girl from Tucson face numerous felony charges and remain in custody after initial court appearances yesterday.
The 13 illegal immigrants who were found squeezed into the Chevrolet Suburban have been deported, U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Frank Amarillas said.
Young female smugglers are not common, he said.
“There have been a few times before when smugglers, both narcotic and human, have employed juveniles to carry out their work,” he said. “The criminals are always seeking ways to circumvent the law.”
Detective Tim Wiedemann of the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force Border Unit, who made the arrests, said he spotted the Suburban near State Route 90 in the Benson area.
Suspecting the vehicle might be stolen, he checked on the plates and began to chase it on the state route.
“She didn’t want to stop for me,” Wiedemann said of the driver, identified by agents as the older of the two. “But it was a very proper chase. She was going the speed limit and using her turn signal when changing lanes.”
When state Department of Public Safety officers from Benson and Tucson joined the pursuit, the driver sped up to more than 100 mph, Wiedemann said.
The chase continued for another 10 miles, he said, to milepost 278 near Wentworth Road, where traffic increased.
The suspects then abandoned the Suburban, jumped a fence, ran into the desert and were quickly arrested, authorities said.
The chase started about 3:40 p.m. and lasted about 20 minutes, Wiedemann said.
The illegal immigrants, all adults, were unharmed.
“These poor people had some pretty scared looks on their faces,” Wiedemann said. “It turned out pretty good because nobody got hurt.”
The 19-year-old is charged with felony fleeing, resisting arrest and 13 counts of endangerment.
She is being held at the Pima County Jail, with bail set at $10,000.
The 16-year-old is charged with felony fleeing, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia and 13 counts of endangerment.
She is at the Pima County Juvenile Court Detention Center and has a status hearing set for March 17. The Tucson Citizen is not naming the girl because of her age.
Citizen Staff Writer Romano Cedillos contributed to this report.