Chula Vista woman admits to coordinating human smuggling through Otay Mesa

By SDCN Editor

San Diego, CA–A Chula Vista woman pleaded guilty in federal court on December 19, admitting that she managed all aspects of a human smuggling operation, including helping place migrants in trunks, coaching drivers to successfully pass through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, federal authorities said.

Ericka Aldana, 40, confirmed that she recruited at least five drivers, procured vehicles for their use, obtained passports for them, and coached them on how to dress and answer questions from Customs and Border Protection officers. Aldana said she crossed the border in tandem with the drivers to direct them to what she considered the less risky border lanes.

According to federal investigators, Aldana staged those individuals at a Chula Vista stash house and helped transport them to their final destinations in the United States. 

She acknowledged smuggling more than 25 migrants over five years, some of whom paid as much as $10,000 to be smuggled into the United States.

“Ms. Aldana avoided getting caught for years, but she could not evade accountability forever,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Federal law enforcement brought a carefully choreographed network of cross-border human smuggling to justice today.”

“Human smuggling is a serious and dangerous offense,” said Sidney Aki, director of Customs and Border Protection Field Operations. “This effort was an outstanding demonstration of law enforcement partnership and commitment to dismantling criminal organizations that exploit vulnerable migrants for profit.”

Aldana is scheduled to be sentenced on March 15 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.

Homeland Security Investigations and United States Customs and Border Protection investigated the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California is prosecuting the case.

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