Los Angeles/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 15, 2024
Chilean Nationals Charged After High-Speed Chase and Collision on California FreewaySource: Unsplash/ Scott Rodgerson

Two individuals identified as Chilean nationals are facing serious charges following a high-speed police chase resulting in a head-on collision on a California freeway. The suspects, Jorge Navarretecorvalan and Alejandro Tobarfuentes, were arrested after reportedly burglarizing a home in San Juan Capistrano, eluding a sheriff's deputy, and then crashing their vehicle into an oncoming car. The incident, which occurred on June 8, 2024, left the driver of the other vehicle with significant injuries.

Driving northbound in the southbound lanes of the freeway, the crash culminated in a pursuit that began with an attempted vehicular stop by an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy. After the collision, law enforcement officials found Navarretecorvalan and Tobarfuentes with counterfeit Venezuelan ID cards, only to later determine that they were Chilean nationals who entered the country via the ESTA Visa Waiver Program. According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the men stole designer handbags, jewelry, and a safe from a local residence before their apprehension.

The ESTA program, which allowed for their entry without thorough background checks, is at the heart of the incident as the suspects took advantage of a loophole that the Orange County District Attorney had previously flagged. District Attorney Todd Spitzer, in a statement obtained by the Orange County DA's news release, critiqued the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for not suspending Chile from the ESTA program until it meets the requirement to provide criminal background information. "Instead of holding Chile accountable and preventing a direct pipeline for organized crime to shuttle thieves into the United States," Spitzer said, "Secretary Mayorkas’ inaction is resulting in Americans continuing to be terrorized by criminals who are stalking them in their homes."

Alex Shaaban of the Gangs Unit is the Deputy District Attorney prosecuting the case. Both Navarretecorvalan and Tobarfuentes are looking at multiple felony charges, with Navarretecorvalan potentially facing up to eight years in state prison while Tobarfuentes could receive a maximum sentence of six years and eight months. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization System (ESTA) Visa Waiver Program was designed for expedited access to the U.S. for participants of select countries, though concerns have risen about its potential for misuse by criminals, as demonstrated by this recent event that put every resident along the freeway at risk the moment the chase ensued.