Texas woman pleads guilty in human smuggling case

(The Center Square) – A Texas woman pleaded guilty Thursday for her role in a scheme to smuggle hundreds of foreign nationals in the United States and conspiracy to launder the profits.

Erminia Serrano Piedra, 32, led a human smuggling organization, according to court records. The migrants were from Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. The migrants, or their families, paid members of the organization to help them travel illegally to the U.S.

Prosecutors said the organization used drivers to pick up migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and take them further into the U.S., using stash houses along the way. Drivers for the organization hid migrants in suitcases placed in pickup trucks and crammed migrants into tractor-trailers, covered beds of pickup trucks, repurposed water tankers, and wooden crates strapped to flatbed trailers.

Prosecutors said the smuggling operation often put people in constricted spaces with limited air in what they said were dangerous practices.

Typically, the fee paid to the organization was about $8,000. Payments were routed through accounts all over the country before being sent to the leaders of the organization.

Serrano Piedra admitted that she made a lot of money from her involvement in human smuggling and was going to continue making a lot of money in the years to come. She also stated that she had been doing this “for a lifetime already” and was not planning to retire, according to her plea agreement.

Serrano Piedra agreed to forfeit two properties worth $2.26 million and $515,000 that were bought with the smuggling profits. She also agreed to a judgment of $942,537.

Serrano Piedra is scheduled to be sentenced on April 10. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

The Justice Department also announced the guilty pleas of 10 other defendants charged in the case who previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme.

Kevin Daniel Nuber, aka Captain, 42, and Laura Nuber, aka Barbie, 41, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens, placing in jeopardy the life of any person, and conspiracy to harbor aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Christine Dangler, aka Tinkerbell, 46; Lloyd Bexley, 53; Jeremy Dickens, 47; Juan Manuel Hernandez Cordova, aka Tio, 46; David Scott Tallant, 54; Katie Ann Garcia, aka Guera, 40; and Abraham Geber Lopez, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport and move aliens, placing in jeopardy the life of any person. Oliveria Campuzano Piedra, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor an alien for profit. They are awaiting sentencing.

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