Burnt out license plate light leads to arrest of two men smuggling four teenage UDAs through Safford

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: A deputy discovered two men smuggling four teenage UDA’s after pulling over an SUV for a traffic infraction. 

By Jon Johnson


SAFFORD – A Graham County Sheriff’s deputy discovered four teenage undocumented aliens hiding in the back of an SUV after he performed a traffic stop on it Sept. 13 for a traffic violation.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, the deputy pulled over a 2000 Ford Expedition at the intersection of U.S. Highway 70 and Hollywood Road at about 10:43 p.m. after noticing the vehicle’s license plate light was not illuminated.

The deputy approached from the passenger’s side and spoke with a front-seat passenger, identified as Daniel Gabaldon, who opened the door to speak with the deputy and said his window would not open. Gabaldon said the pair were on their way to Tucson. Both Gabaldon and the driver, Nicholas Antone, are from Arizona.

After doing a warrant check, the deputy noticed movement in the rear of the vehicle as he approached it to hand back the driver’s licenses to the two subjects and located four other people hiding on the floor in the back of the SUV. The four other passengers were later identified as two 17-year-old males and a 17-year-old and 16-year-old female, undocumented aliens from Mexico.

Gabaldon and Antone refused to answer questions about the UDAs and were detained.

A Spanish-speaking Safford officer arrived at the scene and conversed with the UDAs, who said they had been picked up in Texas and had paid the two men to take them to California. The teens said they hadn’t been given any food or water since they were picked up, so the deputy gave them some water bottles and the Safford officer provided some food.

Customs and Border Patrol from Willcox was then contacted, and they informed the officers that they would respond to the area and take all six subjects and the SUV. Two deputies then waited at the scene until Border Patrol officers arrived and took the subjects and vehicle.