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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Defendant Found Guilty In Maritime Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

SAN DIEGO – A federal jury yesterday convicted San Ysidro resident Sofia Martinez, 27, of alien smuggling charges after a two week trial before the Honorable William Q. Hayes.

According to evidence presented in court, Martinez conspired with others to use jet skis and panga boats to deliver numerous undocumented aliens to the United States from Mexico. Martinez hired three Mexican citizens, whom she trained and used as jet ski drivers. She partnered with co-conspirators to purchase jet skis in the United States and bring them to Mexico for use in the conspiracy.

Martinez, who lived in Tijuana at the time, coordinated with others in the United States to pick up the illegal aliens once they were dropped off at beaches in San Diego County, and deliver them to their final destinations in the United States. Martinez and her co-conspirators charged $7,000 to $10,000 per illegal alien.

Prosecutors presented evidence of numerous smuggling events at trial, including a delivery by panga boat on May 9 and 10, 2013. The boat traveled from Rosarito, Mexico and landed south of the Children’s Pool in La Jolla, California in the early morning hours of May 10. Agents, alerted by a 911 call from a security guard and phone calls intercepted under court-ordered wiretaps, found 15 illegal aliens hiding in various locations around La Jolla.

Martinez was first indicted in September 2013 for conspiring to bring illegal aliens to the United States for financial gain. Her arrest resulted from an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) San Ysidro Border Enforcement Security Task Force, which is comprised of HSI special agents and Border Patrol agents.

“In addition to undermining this nation’s border security, smuggling by ocean is extremely hazardous for undocumented aliens,” said United States Attorney Laura Duffy. “Martinez’s arrest and the dismantling of this alien smuggling group is the product of countless hours of work and close coordination by numerous dedicated investigators.”

“Homeland Security Investigations invested a significant amount of resources into this investigation to reach the organizers and coordinators of the maritime smuggling events plaguing our coast,” said HSI San Diego Interim Special Agent in Charge Jose Garcia. “It was only through the hard work of the entire law enforcement team, processing numerous smuggling events and analyzing countless amounts of evidence, that they were able to develop a strong case against Sofia Martinez and her co-conspirators for a successful prosecution.”

Chief Patrol Agent Paul A. Beeson of the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector said, “Sofia Martinez was finally caught due to the dedicated work of several law enforcement agencies who diligently worked together watching our shores. Border Patrol remains dedicated to protecting the borders of the United States, including the maritime border.”

After trial, Judge Hayes revoked Martinez’s bond and immediately remanded her into custody. Sentencing is set for February 23, 2015 at 9 a.m.


DEFENDANTS   Case Number: 13CR3560-WQH
Sofia Martinez Age: 27 San Ysidro, California
 
CHARGES

Count 1: Title 18, United States Code, Section 371: Conspiracy to bring in illegal aliens for                         financial gain. Maximum Penalty five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Counts 2-4: Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii): Bringing in illegal aliens for financial gain. Maximum Penalty: Fifteen years in prison and mandatory minimum of five years.

 
INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Homeland Security Investigations
Border Patrol

Updated July 23, 2015