SAN DIEGO -
A South Bay woman was behind bars Friday and facing federal prosecution for allegedly helping a U.S. Customs officer and two other co-conspirators sneak undocumented immigrants into the United States for profit.
Maria Guerrero, 39, was arrested at her Chula Vista home on Thursday and booked on suspicion of alien smuggling, the FBI reported.
According to a criminal complaint in the case, Guerrero took part in a scheme in which Customs and Border Protection Officer Hector Rodriguez and co-defendants Vanessa Moya and Gerardo Rodriguez received thousands of dollars from undocumented migrants to secure their passage across the U.S.-Mexico line through San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Hector Rodriguez, Gerardo Rodriguez and Moya were taken into custody and charged in July.
One the day of their arrests, according to prosecutors, Guerrero drove her 2005 Toyota Corolla through the inspection station where the accused officer worked, passing through an inspection lane adjacent to one where Moya and Gerardo Rodriguez had just crossed.
Investigators believe that the timing of Guerrero's passage, and her presence at the spot where undocumented immigrants allegedly were loaded into the vehicle driven by Moya, showed that she was en route to meet with the other woman to take part in the human-smuggling operation.
Federal authorities contend that Hector Rodriguez made the ongoing scheme possible by repeatedly informing Moya and Gerardo Rodriguez of his work schedule, including the date, time and lane numbers to which he was assigned as a primary border inspector.
The latter two defendants purportedly would then drive vehicles occupied by illegal immigrants into the United States through Hector Rodriguez's lane.
According to the federal complaint, the accused officer sought to conceal the crimes by entering into official Department of Homeland Security records false, fraudulent and misleading information about the involved vehicles, driver and passengers.
In addition to smuggling fees paid by undocumented immigrants, Hector Rodriguez allegedly also received bribes from Gerardo Rodriguez that included apartment rent payments and use of luxury cars.
Copyright 2012 by City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.