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Press Release

Roma woman fails to convince jury she was in the wrong place at the wrong time

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

McALLEN, Texas – A 62-year-old woman has been convicted of smuggling aliens within the United States for the third time, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

A federal jury deliberated for approximately 90 minutes before convicting Alma Patricia Soto-Barrera following a three-day trial.

On Aug. 18, 2022, authorities learned of a group of undocumented aliens that had crossed the Rio Grande River near Roma. They followed their foot signs and located three individuals as they entered Soto-Barrera’s vehicle. The back seat was dirty and had mud on the floorboards. There was also dried, muddy footprints in the trunk of the vehicle.

At trial, one of the aliens explained how he crossed the river with two others and a foot guide who provided him with a cell phone. The person on the phone was operating a drone and provided instructions based on what could be seen from above. The jury also heard the group was initially told to hide in a boat and instructed exactly when to run to the vehicle that was arriving.

The jury also heard that Soto-Barrera screamed for the undocumented aliens to get out of the vehicle once law enforcement arrived.  

Soto-Barrera attempted to convince the jury she was not part of the smuggling operation and simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The jury ultimately did not believe her claims and found Soto-Barrera guilty as charged. 

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa presided over the trial and set sentencing for April 27. At that time, Soto-Barrera faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

Soto-Barrera has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing.

Border Patrol and members of its Bike Patrol Unit conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee Fry and Alexa Parcell are prosecuting the case.

Updated February 2, 2023

Human Smuggling