Woman, 84, sentenced for smuggling aliens

Dec. 2, 2011 at 7:28 PM
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SAN DIEGO, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- An 85-year-old Chula Vista, Calif., woman who ran a human smuggling operation out of Tijuana has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison.

Felicitas Gurrola De Mason, who pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to bring illegal aliens into the United States for financial gain, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, KGTV-TV, San Diego, reported.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw sentenced De Mason's 54-year-old daughter, Hilda Patricia Moreno Gurrola, who had also pleaded guilty, to the same sentence.

De Mason and her daughter were arrested after an informant tip led U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to the operation, which was conducted out of a Tijuana hotel, court documents show.

De Mason was heard on a secret recording made by ICE officials boasting she had operated for "over 40 years" to bring in scores of undocumented people per month for a fee of $3,500 per person, prosecutors said.

Tom Matthews, De Mason's defense attorney, said De Mason's sentence may seem short but in actuality she might spend her life behind bars.

"Many times we see people stuffed into trunks of cars, makeshift compartments in vehicles. You see people crossing through deserts in the middle of summer. None of that happened here. Even a short sentence like the one handed out today could end up being a life sentence," Matthews said.

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