Border Patrol agents search for human smuggling suspect in East County

Martell Valencia-Cortez sought

ALPINE, Calif. - A suspected migrant smuggler with a long rap sheet was at large Friday evening after fleeing on foot from a traffic stop near the Viejas Casino, prompting an intensive daylong manhunt in the surrounding hills and ravines.

U.S. Border Patrol officers spotted 36-year-old Martel Valencia-Cortez's vehicle traveling through the Alpine area about 5 a.m. and tried to pull it over, according to USBP public affairs.

Valencia, the subject of a federal arrest warrant, pulled over and ran off, and the agents were unable to catch up to him.

Border Patrol personnel searched the rural area through the morning and afternoon on the ground and aboard a helicopter, and set up a traffic checkpoint to allow them to look through vehicles for the fugitive and show motorists his mug shot.

Officials believed that Valencia might attempt to steal a vehicle in order to escape into Mexico. He has an extensive criminal record and a history of driving erratically -- sometimes speeding the wrong direction on streets and freeways -- to evade capture, according to the federal agency.

The search was winding down in the early evening, Border Patrol spokesman Jerry Conlin said.

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