Petra Hernandez, 35, of
On July 10, 2011, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Hernandez's residence and discovered 16 illegal aliens who had arranged to be smuggled to various parts of the
On Aug. 1, 2011, HSI special agents received information that a group of illegal aliens had been found in the brush by U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol. This information led special agents to suspect the person harboring them was Hernandez, who was out of jail on bond. She was again arrested, along with Nancy Rodriguez, 29, also of
The indictment was later superseded charging Hernandez, Munoz and Rodriguez with conspiracy to harbor and transport aliens, and four substantial counts of harboring and transporting aliens. Hernandez subsequently pleaded 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 having used the proceeds from the illegal activities to fund a lavish lifestyle, including purchasing a house with cash and a cashier's check.
Munoz and Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to separate counts of alien transporting and alien harboring, and are awaiting sentencing. Munoz was released on bond pending sentencing. Rodriguez will remain in federal custody as an illegal alien subject to deportation after the judicial proceedings.
Hernandez had been on bond awaiting sentencing. However, on May 21, HSI special agents again found her harboring five illegal aliens. She was indicted on those charges June 5, and is currently pending trial on that case. She will remain in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sonah Lee and D.J. Young, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Ellen Smyth handled the asset forfeiture matter.