EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A woman who is eight months pregnant and another who claims she makes a living panhandling are facing migrant smuggling charges in Arizona.
The Sept. 7 arrests of Kimberly Vasquez Cruz, 24, and Leslie Susanne Aguirre, 46, stem from separate conspiracies to transport migrants from the Mexico-Arizona border to Phoenix, federal court documents allege.
U.S. Border Patrol agents began tracking Vasquez and a woman identified as Anette Serrato in Naco after allegedly watching a man running from the international boundary get into their car along Clinton Lane. The car drove away from the border, and agents attempted a stop but the vehicle described only as a white hatchback kept going until it came upon a dead end, court documents show.
In the back of the car, the agents allegedly found five people wearing camouflage clothing who stated they were foreign nationals not authorized to be in the United States. They stated they had paid up or were expected to pay between $1,800 and $10,000 for transportation from the Mexican border to the interior of the United States.
Serrato told Border Patrol agents that Vasquez had approached her at a gas station in Tucson and asked her for a ride to pick up her family. She told agents she did not know the individuals were undocumented but was unable to identify the gas station at which she met Vasquez, court records show.
Vasquez, too, initially denied knowing Serrato, but later allegedly told investigators the two of them were in Naco to “pick up illegals.” According to court documents, Vasquez told agents she was offered between $5,000 to $8,000 to deliver the group to its destination; she allegedly said she accepted because she was “eight months pregnant, broke and needed money.”
Both women face charges of bringing in and harboring unauthorized non-citizens.
That same day but 30 miles to the east in Douglas, Border Patrol agents observed two vehicles traveling in tandem approach the Mexican border, then travel in the opposite direction to State Route 191.
Agents stopped a Nissan Altima that appeared to be weighted down as it entered Interstate 10. Two Hispanic males wearing camouflage exited the vehicle and ran into the desert. According to federal court records, two women in the front of the Nissan turned out to be U.S. citizens while three passengers in the back were unauthorized migrants, including one who was ordered out of the country in 2017.
The lead vehicle, a Chevrolet Silverado, was stopped by law enforcement officers near Benson. The driver, Paul Munguia-Espinoza allegedly had a key to his vehicle and a key to the Nissan in his possession.
In an interview with law enforcement, the driver of the Nissan, Danaska “D.D.” Loden stated she was approached by an unknown male in Mesa, Arizona, who offered her $400 for every unauthorized migrant she was able to transport to Phoenix from the border, court records show.
The other woman, Leslie Suzanne Aguirre, said she was unemployed, panhandling on the streets of Mesa and living in a Motel 6. She said Loden offered to pay her a portion of her fee for joining the conspiracy, court documents allege.
Loden, Aguirre and Munguia-Espinoza, a Mexican citizen, are facing federal migrant smuggling charges.