US citizen pleads not guilty to fatal Border smuggling attempt
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A U.S. citizen accused in an alleged smuggling attempt that ended in the deaths of two Mexicans in the trunk of his car pleaded not guilty in San Diego federal court Wednesday to charges of bringing in illegal aliens without presentation.
Nicholas George Zakov, 41, of Los Angeles was ordered held without bail and had a detention hearing set for Aug. 19.
A medical emergency was reported at the San Ysidro border station in southwestern San Diego County about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Two people were found in the trunk, and one died at the scene, the department’s Lee Swanson said. The other person was declared dead at a trauma center.
According to a probable cause statement, Zakov – driving a 2012 Dodge Challenger – arrived at the border from Mexico about 2:27 p.m, seeking admission into the United States.
A Customs and Border Protection officer referred the car for a more thorough investigation, and an X-ray machine detected anomalies in the car’s trunk. Officers found two men inside who were not breathing.
San Diego paramedics were called, but both men, Mexican citizens, died at hospitals.
They were identified as 28-year-old Tarcisio Casas-Blanco and 20-year-old Jose Aurelio Quiroz-Casas, both from the state of Guanajuato.
Zakov admitted being aware of the two people in the trunk, authorities said.
Zakov said he was told to drive a Denny’s in Chula Vista where he would be paid $3,500, according to the probable cause statement.