EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The co-leader of a group that smuggled migrants from the Mexican border to North Texas in the back of locked cargo trailers has been sentenced in U.S. federal court to four years in prison.
Ana Maria Villa Flores, a Plano, Texas, resident originally from Michoacan, Mexico, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport migrants from El Paso to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Federal investigators said Villa, 40, was a leader and organizer in a group believed to be responsible for the smuggling of at least 124 migrants between July 2021 and April 2022.
She initially faced two counts in connection to the smuggling of 22 migrants in July 2021 and a group of 24 in January 2022, according to court documents. In addition to prison time, Villa was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
There was no immediate word on the fate of alleged co-conspirators Francisco Eduardo Briseno, Jose Gustavo Lopez, Alejandro de la Rosa Frances and Kevin Soto-Oliva. Parts of the indictment remain sealed.
The practice of transporting unauthorized migrants in locked trailers has proven fatal on several occasions. Last June, 53 migrants died after traveling in a steamy tractor-trailer near San Antonio. Citizens of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras died in that incident. Four men were arrested in connection to the incident and two were charged with transportation of undocumented immigrants resulting in death.
Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Border Patrol investigated the El Paso-to-Dallas case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Crosby was the prosecutor.
“Individuals involved in the illicit movement of human cargo into the country and then onto further destinations within the United States have a callous disregard for the value of human life and are placing profit ahead of public safety,” said HSI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola. “HSI will continue to aggressively work with our law enforcement partners to identify and arrest those involved in this illicit and dangerous activity.”