San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Human trafficking

US court sentences Costa Rican woman to 30 months in jail for role in human smuggling network

A Costa Rican woman on Friday was sentenced in a Florida court to 30 months in prison for her role in a conspiracy to smuggle more than 25 undocumented Cuban migrants to that country, the U.S. Department of Justice reported.

Mercedes Morera Roche, 49, was extradited to the U.S. from Panama on Aug. 21 to face human smuggling charges. On Oct. 6, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle more than 25 undocumented migrants from Cuba to the U.S.

According to her plea agreement, Morera admitted that between 2004 and 2011, she was an organizer of a human smuggling network that provided instructions, fraudulent identities and travel documents, escorts, transportation, safe-house locations, and other assistance to facilitate the illicit travel of undocumented migrants to the United States.

Morera said that in some cases, she provided fraudulent passports so that undocumented migrants could fly to the U.S. with the help of corrupt airline and immigration officials. She also directed the migrants to destroy the fraudulent documents during the flights to the U.S., and instructed them about what to do and say to U.S. immigration officials upon landing.

In other cases, she coordinated the smuggling of undocumented migrants over land routes through Latin America and Mexico into the U.S. Morera charged up to $10,000 for each undocumented migrant.

Morera was born in Cuba but received Costa Rican citizenship on May 16, 2003, after marrying a Costa Rican national. She was married to him from 1997 to 2003. The couple divorced the same year she received her citizenship.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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