ROUSES POINT - A Columbian man has been convicted of illegally entering the United States and attempting to flee authorities.
Diego Lesmes-Maldonado, 31, an illegal alien last known to be residing in Boca Raton, Fla., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Albany Nov. 25 to the felony offense of high speed flight from an Immigration checkpoint, before the Hon. Lawrence E. Kahn.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, Lesmes-Maldonado was encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Rouses Point Port of Entry on State Route 9B in the village of Rouses Point shortly before midnight Sept. 11. While the immigration and customs inspection of Lesmes-Maldonado and his passengers was being conducted, Lesmes-Maldonado disregarded the instructions of the officers and drove south, away from the Port of Entry, at a high rate of speed. He was observed immediately turning east, driving over the Lake Champlain bridge on State Route 2, entering Vermont.
U.S. Border Patrol and the Grand Isle (Vt.) Sheriff's Department pursued Lesmes-Maldonado before he traversed the bridge and after he entered Vermont at speeds in excess of the posted speed limit.
Lesmes-Maldonado was apprehended and the pursuit terminated when the vehicle he was driving was disabled by spike strips deployed in the town of South Hero, Vt. The pursuit lasted approximately 30 minutes.
Passengers found in the vehicle driven by Lesmes-Maldonado were also illegal aliens - two citizens of Angola and one citizen of Brazil.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol, Swanton, Vt.; Grand Isle Vermont Sheriff's Department, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Rouses Point.
Sentencing for Lesmes-Maldonado is scheduled for March 11, 2009 in Albany. As a result of the conviction, Lesmes-Maldonado faces a maximum sentence of imprisonment for 5 years, supervised release of up to 3 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a special assessment of $100.