Mission family pleads guilty to smuggling 300 people into US

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Four members of a Mission family pleaded guilty for their roles in money laundering and in smuggling 300 people into the U.S., according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.

Scarlett Fuentes-Gavarrette, 35, and her husband Luis Enrique Moctezuma-Acosta, 36, both pleaded guilty to human smuggling and to laundering over $2 million “in monetary instruments.”

Their family members, Elizabeth Acosta, 52, and Keysi Fuentes-Gavarrete, 27, pleaded guilty to the same money laundering charge.

Authorities began their investigation in November 2019 and discovered the family had smuggled around 300 people from the southwest border region to the northern parts of the U.S. The FBI led the investigation with the help of McAllen police, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Department of Insurance.

Federal authorities referred to the conspiracy as a “sophisticated network” of smugglers across the U.S. who used commercial airplanes and tractor-trailers as well as “various other smuggling methods.”

“The network spanned from Honduras to as far north as Boston, Massachusetts, with a heavy emphasis on smuggling Brazilian nationals,” the release stated.

Authorities executed search warrants on March 9, 2023, in which they found over $1.5 million in cash at Fuentes-Gavarrette and Moctezuma-Acosta’s properties including their residence and purported car dealership they operated as a front business, according to the release.

They also seized about $2.69 million in assets and various luxury vehicles including a 2023 Escalade and a 2021 Ford Shelby Truck along with jewelry and other pieces of property.

The family, which currently faces up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000, will be sentenced on June 6 by U.S. District Chief Judge Randy Crane. Fuentes-Gavarrette and Moctezuma-Acosta are also facing an additional 20 years.

All will remain in custody pending their sentencing.

“In the heart of South Texas, where the borders converge, we confront the stark reality of money laundering and the smuggling of undocumented individuals,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said in the release. “From the distant lands of Honduras to the bustling streets of Boston, Massachusetts, this illicit network spans continents, but our resolve to dismantle it remains unwavering.”