All four undocumented immigrants in the vehicle were charged with felony theft.

Ocean City Police arrested four undocumented immigrants — including one wearing an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ankle brace — for driving a stolen vehicle in the resort town.

Anyone who has had their car stolen knows what an arduous ordeal it is. You file the police report and hope for the best, knowing that your car has probably already reached a chop shop.

The best scenario is for the car thieves to go out joy-riding. Technology today allows for law enforcement to instantly scan license plates. At first, the technology was used to canvass parking lots looking for wanted fugitives. Today, however, it is making its way onto more and more police squad cars, allowing officers to instantly check the license plates of cars on the road.

In Ocean City, there is a stationary license plate reader on the Route 50 bridge that scans incoming license plates and runs them through the police database.

In early May, Ocean City Police Officers got a hit on the Route 50 license plate scanner. A Dodge Charger, reported stolen in Virginia, had made its way into Ocean City. Officers responded to the alert and found the stolen Charger sitting at a traffic light. The responding officer manually ran the plate through the database to confirm the suspicion, and the second search verified that the car had been reported stolen.

At this point, the OCPD officer turned on his lights and sirens and stopped the vehicle. The driver was identified as Maria Vasquez-Carranza, 17, from Annandale, VA. The passengers included Axel Vasquez-Cabrera, 19, of Landover, MD; Sandra Rivera-Barahona, 20, of Alexandria, VA; and Jose Guzman-Fuentes, 20, or Fairfax, VA. Based on the license plate scanner’s photographs, police believed that Guzman-Fuentes drove the vehicle into Ocean City before switching seats.

All four of the vehicle’s occupants were determined to be in the country illegally. Guzman-Fuentes was actually still wearing the ICE ankle monitor from a previous deportation hearing. He was also wanted in Virginia for a separate auto theft investigation. In 2017, Fairfax County Police arrested a “Jose Fuentes Guzman,” then 19, and charged him with possession of stolen property, felony speeding to elude, and driving without a license.

All four of the occupants were arrested and charged with theft. Because the Dodge Charger was valued between $25,000 and $100,000, the theft charges were felonies carrying a maximum of 15 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

Under both the Trump and Obama administrations, undocumented immigrants arrested for felonies have been classified as deportation priorities. Even in cases where charges were dropped or the immigrant was found not guilty, deportation often followed. It is unclear whether, or to what extent, the Ocean City Police Department is working with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency on this matter.

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