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Press Release

Leader of Human Smuggling Organization Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Maria Mendoza-Mendoza, aka “La Guera,” 51, of Honduras, pleaded guilty yesterday to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 2, 2024, before United States District Judge Raner C. Collins.

Mendoza-Mendoza admitted that she was a leader of a smuggling organization that smuggled over 100 migrants from Honduras into the United States, and that, as a leader, she coordinated alien smuggling and money laundering events. Mendoza-Mendoza admitted she told a co-conspirator she would “bleed out” a guide as punishment and that she stated that a migrant whose family did not pay his fee would be thrown “back in the desert.” She also admitted that the smuggling organization used firearms and that the smuggling involved dangerous risks to the migrants. The government of Honduras extradited Mendoza-Mendoza to the United States in June 2023 to face these charges.   

A conviction for Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

This prosecution resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is part of JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime.

Homeland Security Investigations-Sells office conducted the investigation in this case. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.

CASE NUMBER:           CR-18-00078-RCC-MAA
RELEASE NUMBER:    2024-008_Mendoza-Mendoza

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Public Affairs
Zach J. Stoebe
Telephone: (602) 514-7413

Updated January 25, 2024

Human Trafficking
Press Release Number: 2024-008_Mendoza-Mendoza