Eight people plead guilty to transporting illegal immigrants

June 28, 2011 at 1:28 a.m.

Eight defendants scheduled for trial Monday on federal charges of conspiring to transport illegal immigrants by motor vehicle pleaded guilty before the proceedings began.

Defendants Beatrice Rodriguez, 40; April Stevens, 30; Alejandro Hernandez, 52; Pedro Vargas, 32; Jesus Alcala-Mendoza, 30; Peter Jones, 29; Joesantos Zacarias, 43; and Lorena Martinez, 36, pleaded guilty between May 9 and June 23 to charges of conspiring to transport illegal immigrants from 1993 to November 2010, according to court records.

U.S. attorney spokeswoman Angela Dodge said a motion to dismiss without prejudice was filed on behalf of a ninth defendant, Ana Lilia Martinez-Limas, 35, because she agreed to pre-trial diversion, a program in which a defendant is essentially put on probation for a set period of time, during which his or her case does not go to trial. If the defendant meets the conditions set by the court, then the charge is dismissed.

The motion has not yet been signed by a judge.

Martinez and Jones are residents of Portland, Texas; Rodriguez, Martinez-Limas, Stevens and Hernandez live in Corpus Christi; and Vargas lives in Houston, Dodge said.

Mendoza and Zacarias are illegal immigrants from Mexico.

All of the defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury in December.

In addition to pleading guilty, plea agreement documents show the defendants also will forfeit properties in Portland and Corpus Christi.

The U.S. government will request the remaining three counts of the defendants' indictment be at the time of sentencing in exchange for truthful testimony at their sentencing hearings, which are scheduled for later in the year, according to court records.

The remaining charges are engaging in monetary transactions with financial institutions as it pertains to criminally derived property greater than $10,000 from March 2006 to October 2006, as well as assisting one another more than once to evade reporting requirements for monetary transactions.

U.S. District Judge John Rainey was scheduled to preside over the case.



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