Ecuadoran Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Unlawfully Transporting Foreign Nationals in Vermont
The United States Attorney stated that Maria Constante-Zamora, 31, of Ecuador and Danbury, Connecticut, made her initial appearance in United States District Court in Burlington on a criminal complaint charging her with unlawfully attempting to transport three individuals within the United States while knowing or recklessly disregarding that the individuals had come to and entered the United States in violation of the law. Constante-Zamora remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending further proceedings.
According to public documents in the case, during the late evening hours of February 19, 2023, the United States Border Patrol observed camera images of three individuals walking south from Canada into the United States in the vicinity of Goodall Road in Derby, Vermont. Based on this information suggesting a nearby illegal border crossing, the United States Border Patrol initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle on Goodall Road. Before the vehicle stop, Border Patrol Agents observed the vehicle turn on its lights and travel slowly on Goodall Road. The vehicle, with Connecticut license plates, slowed and stopped in the location where the three individuals would have been likely to exit the woods. Before the vehicle stop, the vehicle also blinked its lights and then accelerated quickly. After the stop, Border Patrol identified Maria Constante-Zamora as the passenger in the vehicle and as an Ecuadoran national living in Connecticut. In close proximity to the vehicle stop, Border Patrol Agents saw three individuals standing on the side of the road. One of the individuals was clutching a tree and appeared to be in distress. The other two of the three subjects proceeded to run north toward Canada. Neither of those subjects was apprehended at that time because the individual clutching the tree collapsed. Border Patrol Agents rendered aid to the individual who collapsed until EMS arrived. EMS continued to render aid and also transported the individual to North Country Hospital in Newport, Vermont. The individual was pronounced dead at the hospital in the early morning of February 20, 2023. At this time, a cause of death has not been determined. One of the individuals who ran north toward Canada, Oscar Soto-Acosta, was eventually apprehended and has been ordered detained as a material witness.
The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that the charge against Constante-Zamora contained in the criminal complaint is an accusation only and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. As currently charged Constante-Zamora, faces up to five years of imprisonment if convicted. Any sentence in the case will be advised by the United States Sentencing Guidelines.
U.S. Attorney Nikolas Kerest credited the agents of the United States Border Patrol for their apprehension of Constante-Zamora and their continued efforts to prevent the exploitation of foreign nationals by human-smuggling organizations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Lasher represents the United States in this case. Constante-Zamora is represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Mary Nerino.
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