Roma woman claimed ‘wrong place wrong time’ in smuggling attempt, jury not convinced

by: Alejandra Yańez
Posted: Feb 3, 2023 / 03:25 PM CST
Updated: Feb 3, 2023 / 03:25 PM CST

ROMA, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A federal jury convicted a Valley woman of human smuggling after she tried to convince them she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Alma Patricia Soto-Barrera, 62, was convicted of human smuggling within the United States for the third time, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

On Aug. 18, 2022, law enforcement watched as a group of undocumented migrants cross the Rio Grande near Roma. Agents followed their footsteps and located three people as they entered Soto Barrera’s vehicle.

When authorities inspected her car, they found that the back seat was dirty and had mud on the floor.

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“There was also dried, muddy footprints in the trunk of the vehicle,” the release stated.

One of the migrants testified he crossed the river with two others and a foot guide who provided him with a cell phone. He said on the other end of the phone was a person operating a drone and providing instructions based on what could be seen from above.

The jury also heard the group of migrants was instructed to hide in a boat before running into the vehicle as it was arriving.

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Soto-Barrera attempted to convince the jury that she was not part of the smuggling operation and simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The jury took a little over an hour to find her guilty.

Her sentencing is scheduled for April 27. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.