Pair admits to charges in border smuggling scheme

Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 18:50:38-05

SAN DIEGO -- Two Mexican nationals pled guilty to smuggling charges in a federal courtroom Thursday.

Miriam Juarez-Herrera, 35, and Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, 31, were arrested in September 2016 after officials said the two tried to smuggle undocumented individuals through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, charging as much as $15,000 per person to help them gain entry to the United States. 

The pair admitted in separate plea agreements to successfully smuggling as many as 10 undocumented people into the U.S. from Mexico between November 2015 and September 2016. The two said they utilized a vehicle lane manned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Jose Luis Cota to carry out the smuggling scheme.

Juarez-Herrera also admitted in her plea agreement to bribing Cota with cash and sexual favors. Cota pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding the two, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

Because both Juarez-Herrera and Aguilar-Martinez are not U.S. citizens, their guilty pleas make it virtually guaranteed that they will be deported to Mexico after they service their sentences, officials said.

Juarez-Herrera and Aguilar-Martinez are scheduled to be sentenced on April 7, while Cota is scheduled to be in court for a motion hearing on Jan. 6.