Honduras woman pleads guilty to illegally smuggling migrants across US-Mexico border
Jan 27, 2024, 5:45 AM
(File photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOENIX — A woman pleaded guilty to human smuggling charges on Wednesday, officials said.
Maria Mendoza-Mendoza, 51, admitted to leading a conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants for profit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona announced on Thursday.
This carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Officials said the Honduras woman also went by the nickname “La Guera,” which loosely translates to “white girl.”
Why she pleaded guilty to human smuggling
The organization Mendoza-Mendoza led smuggled over 100 migrants from Honduras to the U.S., officials said. She allegedly coordinated both alien smuggling and money laundering efforts.
Mendoza-Mendoza allegedly threatened guides with violence, telling one she’d make them “bleed out,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona said.
She also told one migrant she’d throw him “back in the desert” if his family did not pay a fee, officials said.
Mendoza-Mendoza also admitted her organization used firearms and put migrants in danger, officials said.
Government leaders in Honduras extradited her to the U.S. to face these charges in June 2023.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona handled the prosecution in this case.
Mendoza-Mendoza’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 2. She will stand before U.S. District Judge Raner Collins.