Cybersecdn- Erminia Serrano Piedra, 32, also known as “Irma” and “Boss Lady,” has admitted to being a part of a large-scale operation to smuggle people and a plot to hide the money from this illegal activity. Official court papers say Piedra was in charge of an organization that brought hundreds of migrants into the United States illegally and hid them.
Most of these migrants came from Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. The group planned to pick up migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and take them deeper into the U.S., where they often stayed in “stash houses” for short periods to hide.
Migrants were forced to travel in dangerously small and unsafe spaces, such as hidden in suitcases, crammed into vehicles like tractor-trailers and water trucks, or locked up in wooden crates. The group’s callous disrespect for human life was clear when they talked about migrants as if they were goods.
Piedra also admitted that she was involved in a complicated plot to hide the money made from moving people. As part of the scheme, payments were sent through different bank accounts across the US until they reached the leaders of the group.
— US Attorney SDTX (@USAO_SDTX) January 4, 2024
Piedra herself said that these actions were making her a lot of money and that she had no plans to stop them. Piedra also agreed to the illegal forfeiture of two properties worth about $2.275 million and $515,000 that he bought with money from smuggling. He also agreed to pay a $942,537.00 money judgment.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas, and HSI Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger all made the news of Piedra’s plea.
This case is part of a larger investigation by Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), which was created in June 2021 to fight the growing danger of people coming from Central America to the United States illegally. Working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FBI, the DEA, and other agencies, the task force is made up of people from different U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), and other divisions.
So far, JTFA’s work has led to more than 260 arrests, 180 convictions, and the discovery of large amounts of property. HSI Laredo, CBP’s U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector, and the DHS Office of the Inspector General led the investigation into this operation.
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Other HSI offices, the U.S. Marshals Service, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations – Austin, and several police and sheriff’s departments from multiple states also provided a lot of help. The case is being prosecuted by HRSP Trial Attorneys Christian Levesque and Angela Buckner, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Day for the Southern District of Texas, and MLARS Trial Attorney Daria Andryushchenko.
They have a lot of help from other departments and offices. Piedra will be sentenced on April 10 and could spend up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. A judge in a federal district court will decide the sentence by looking at the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other legal grounds.