Miami judge sentences 2 'coyotes' in smuggling, abduction of girl in Lantana

Associated Press

August 17, 2005, 4:40 PM EDT

MIAMI -- Two admitted human smugglers, known as ``coyotes,'' were sentenced to prison Wednesday in a case that involved an abduction, a dramatic police chase on busy Interstate 95 and later the tragic suicide of a young Guatemalan woman.

Ricardo Contreras, 33, was sentenced to 18 months and Rogino Sanchez, 24, to 15 months by U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks. The two men had pleaded guilty in June to federal charges of illegally transporting aliens to the United States.

``I have nothing to say,'' Contreras told the judge after the sentence was imposed.

Both are likely to be deported to Mexico after their release from prison, prosecutors said.

Their human smuggling operation came to light in March when they were arrested on I-95 in Palm Beach County after a family reported that their daughter, 18-year-old Susana Mateo Jose, had been kidnapped from a Kmart parking lot in Lantana.

It turned out that the young woman's parents had paid smugglers more than $2,700 to bring her to the United States from Guatemala but still owed another $2,500. When they were unable to pay, the smugglers took off with their daughter.

``When her parents didn't come through with the money, she was going to be dropped off somewhere to work off the debt. She would either be a prostitute somewhere or work on a farm,'' said Lantana police Capt. Andy Rundle shortly after the arrests.

When the pair was chased down and taken into custody, police found $11,000 in cash in their vehicle and a ledger listing names of other migrants and the amounts owed for their journey.

According to court documents, the coyotes transported a group of illegal migrants including Susana Jose from Arizona to Alabama, where some were dropped off, then continued on to Florida.

Susana Jose, who had traveled from Guatemala through Mexico to the United States, faced possible deportation back to Guatemala, where she had lived with relatives since her parents left in 1986. The family is of Mayan descent.

On June 17, a few days after Contreras and Sanchez pleaded guilty, she was found hanging from a rope tied to a mango tree in the family's backyard in Boynton Beach in what the medical examiner ruled was a suicide.