On June 22, authorities extradited a Honduran national from Honduras to the United States to face charges related to human smuggling and money laundering. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated the case with help from U.S. Border Patrol and numerous state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The U.S. Marshals Service assisted with the extradition.
“Last night’s successful extradition is a direct result of all law enforcement agencies working together to ensure this defendant is brought to Tucson on a provisional arrest warrant,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown on June 23. “HSI will hold transnational criminal organizations accountable for their involvement in human smuggling. HSI thanks partnered agencies to include the Honduran government for their commitment to employ a full range of law enforcement techniques and authorities against human smugglers — let today’s announcement serve as a reminder that we will investigate you, dismantle your networks, and see that you face justice.”
Maria Mendoza-Mendoza aka La Guera made her initial court appearance June 23 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
According to court documents, Mendoza-Mendoza is a high-level, Honduran-based human smuggling coordinator who, with co-conspirators throughout Central America, Mexico and the United States, facilitated the illegal entry, transport and harboring of numerous undocumented noncitizens. Through phone conversations captured on wire intercepts, Mendoza-Mendoza is alleged to have directed the movement of undocumented noncitizens and the collection of smuggling fees. She also is alleged to have exercised extensive control over co-conspirators. Authorities allege that the smuggling organization used numerous funnel accounts to collect millions in smuggling fees deposited across the United States and withdrawn primarily in the Phoenix area.
Mendoza-Mendoza is charged in an indictment with conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for profit and transportation of and harboring illegal aliens for profit, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. She is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This extradition resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is part of JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson is prosecuting the case.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.