Human Smugglers Plead Guilty to Transporting and Harboring Over 100 Illegal Aliens

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, November 18, 2021

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TUCSON, Ariz. – Amalia Gonzalez-Lara, 43, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty in federal court today in connection with her role as the coordinator of a human smuggling operation in Avondale, Arizona.

During a proceeding before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Rateau, Gonzalez-Lara admitted that she conspired to transport and harbor over 100 illegal aliens for profit. On January 12, 2021, law enforcement agents located 20 illegal aliens, all nationals of Mexico or Guatemala, inside a residence located at 1905 North 119th Drive in Avondale, Arizona. Over the course of the conspiracy, the house was used to conceal large numbers of illegal aliens who had been smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border and transported to the Phoenix area. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations and United States Border Patrol made the arrests.

Co-conspirator Sergio Vazquez-Flores, 46, of Goodyear, Arizona, pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport and harbor over 100 illegal aliens for profit on November 5, 2021. Vazquez-Flores operated the stash house at the Avondale address on behalf of Gonzalez-Lara.

A conviction for Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Illegal Aliens for Profit carries a maximum penalty of ten years, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both.

Sentencing is set before Senior U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins for Vazquez-Flores on January 25, 2022, and for Gonzalez-Lara on February 1, 2022.

The investigation in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations – Nogales Office, with assistance from United States Border Patrol. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, is handling the prosecution.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is part of Joint Task Force Alpha (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 (DHS), 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. JTFA consists of federal prosecutors and attorneys from U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration are also part of the Task Force.