Laredo Woman Sentenced In Multi-Year Alien Transportation Conspiracy
|June 28, 2012|
LAREDO, Texas – Petra Hernandez, 35, of Laredo, Texas, has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for her involvement in a conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Hernandez pleaded guilty Sept. 7, 2011.
This morning, Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen handed Hernandez the prison term which will be followed by three years of supervised release and 150 hours of community service. Judge Kazen also forfeited Hernandez’s personal residence which was found to have been purchased with proceeds from the alien smuggling conspiracy spanning over a decade and was also used as a stash house.
On July 10, 2011, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents executed a search warrant on the home of Hernandez and discovered she was harboring 16 undocumented aliens who had made arrangements to be smuggled into various parts of the United States. Hernandez was arrested and later indicted along with Rachele Lynn Munoz, 31, of Laredo, for harboring aliens at her home. She was released on bond.
On Aug. 1, 2011, HSI agents received information that a group of undocumented aliens had been found in the brush by Border Patrol. The information led agents to suspect the person harboring them was Hernandez. She was again arrested along with Nancy Rodriguez, 29, also of Laredo.
The indictment was later superceded charging Hernandez, Munoz and Rodriguez with conspiracy to harbor and transport aliens and for substantive counts of harboring and transporting aliens. Hernandez subsequently entered a plea of guilty to one count of alien smuggling conspiracy. At the plea hearing, Hernandez admitted to being involved in transporting and harboring aliens from August 2001 through August 2011 and to having used the proceeds from the illegal activities to fund a lavish lifestyle, including fully purchasing a house in cash and in a cashier’s check.
Munoz and Rodriguez also entered a plea of guilty to separate counts of alien transporting and alien harboring and are currently awaiting sentencing. Munoz was released on bond pending that hearing, while Rodriguez will remain in federal custody as she is an illegal alien subject to deportation after the judicial proceedings.
Hernandez had been on bond awaiting the sentencing today. However, on May 21, 2012, HSI agents again found her harboring five illegal aliens. She was indicted on those charges on June 5, 2012, and is currently pending trial on that case. She will remain in custody.
The case was investigated by HSI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sonah Lee and D.J. Young. Assistant United States Attorney Mary Ellen Smyth handled the asset forfeiture matter.