MISSOULA — Two Washington residents suspected of picking up six Mexican nationals who crossed illegally into the United States from Canada through a remote area in Lincoln County were convicted of charges, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.
A federal jury convicted Miguel Angel Medina, 62, of Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 23 of transportation of illegal aliens following a two-day trial that began on Aug. 22. Co-defendant Leslie Patricia Rivera, 51, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty on Aug. 22, before the trial began, to transportation of illegal aliens.
Rivera and Medina face a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. Judge Christensen set sentencing for Dec. 14 for both defendants. Rivera was released pending further proceedings, while Medina was detained.
“Rivera and Medina, motivated by money, transported six illegal Mexican nationals who walked across the border in the middle of winter to be picked up in the middle of nowhere. We will continue working with law enforcement to secure our border with Canada and will prosecute those who engage in this dangerous smuggling activity that exploits vulnerable people. I want to thank our assistant U.S. attorneys and the U.S. Border Patrol for their work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
In court documents and at trial, the government alleged that Rivera and Medina picked up six illegal aliens who had just crossed the international border from Canada in the Green Basin area of the West Kootenai near Rexford, in Lincoln County, a place that was not a port of entry. Rivera and Medina had left Seattle in a rented car the prior day and drove straight through. A friend of Rivera’s had offered her $3,500 to pick up four people and drive them back to Seattle. At the time of Rivera’s arrest, she had received partial payment. Rivera paid Medina $1,000 to accompany her. At approximately 5 a.m. on Jan. 19, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was notified of persons potentially attempting to illegally enter the United States. The agent ultimately stopped a SUV with a Washington license plate on a Forest Service road. Rivera was the driver, Medina was the front passenger and six other occupants, who acknowledged being from Mexico and in the country illegally, were in the rear two seats. All eight suspects were transported to the Eureka Border Patrol Station for processing. The six illegal aliens claimed to have paid from $180 to $7,324 to be smuggled into the United States.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol.