By Mary Slosson
SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - Border patrol agents found 13 illegal immigrants in the back of a fake UPS van after they noticed the brown vehicle with yellow insignia trying to circumvent a highway checkpoint, the agency said on Tuesday.
The agents arrested the passengers, identified as Mexican citizens without legal immigration documents, at an inland checkpoint on Friday on the dusty Highway 111, about 50 miles by car from the U.S.-Mexico border.
The driver of the replica mail delivery van, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen, was also arrested for attempting to smuggle illegal immigrants, the border patrol said.
"After further investigation, agents determined that the van was not a legitimate UPS van," the agency said in a release.
In recent years, increasingly crafty drug and people smugglers from Mexico have turned to "cloning" vehicles to try to evade tightening security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
They include making vehicles look like delivery vans and, in one instance, a beer truck. In 2010, authorities in Arizona found a vehicle disguised as a police patrol car, complete with sirens and flashing lights, which they believed was being used by brazen bandits to rip off drug loads in transit.
Photos provided by the border patrol show a large Ford cargo van painted dark brown, with a slightly crooked UPS logo affixed to the back door and the company logo written on the side of the van. Darkened windows would have hidden anyone crouched inside.
(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)