Costa Rica woman pleads guilty in US to masterminding human smuggling ring

October 7, 2014

A Costa Rican woman, Mercedes Morera Roche, 49, pleaded guilty Monday in the United States to charges of conspiring to smuggle more than 25 undocumented immigrants into the U.S. from Cuba. Roche was extradited to the U.S. from Panama on Aug. 21, 2014 to face the charges, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

In her plea agreement, delivered to a court in the state of Florida, Roche admitted to organizing a human smuggling network between 2004 and 2011 designed to move migrants into the U.S. Her organization provided instructions, fake passports, travel documents, transportation and safe houses for migrants who paid up to $10,000 each to sneak into the U.S.

The Costa Rican smuggler allegedly relied on corrupt immigration officials and airline employees to get migrants on flights to the U.S. Once on board, the migrants were told to destroy their fraudulent documents and were given instructions on how to handle immigration and customs once in U.S. territory. In other instances, Roche also coordinated land crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

Roche’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 11, 2014, before U.S. District Court Judge Ursula M. Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida.

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