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Brazilian man hides in SUV gas tank to try to sneak into U.S. from Mexico

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Generic photo of 2001 Toyota Sequota

CALEXICO, Calif. (AP) — A man has been charged with trying to sneak a Brazilian man into the United States from Mexico by hiding him in the gasoline tank of an SUV.

Jonathan Pantoja allegedly brought the 38-year-old inside the modified tank of a 2001 Toyota Sequoia early Tuesday at a crossing in Calexico, California. Customs and Border Protection says an imaging device spotted anomalies in the SUV’s gas tank and back seats.

A criminal complaint says the driver — a 40-year-old U.S. citizen — told authorities that he smuggled to pay off a $5,000 debt. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The complaint says the Brazilian man told authorities he paid $5,800 to get to the border from Brazil and was to pay another $4,000 in Los Angeles.