An Arizona woman is accused of smuggling hundreds of illegal immigrants into the US after they coughed up as much as $15,000 a pop to get across the border, authorities say.
Tania Estudillo Hernandez allegedly smuggled between 80 and 100 migrants a month into the country for six months before she was arrested Friday.
El Mirage police said its investigation showed that the undocumented immigrants were charged as much as $15,000 to get into the US.
Authorities were tipped off to the scheme when they received a report of a person being held for ransom at a house in the city, which is outside Phoenix. The caller said there were “multiple people kidnapped including her husband,” police said.
As part of the investigation, Hernandez, 24, was arrested during a traffic stop while transporting a Guatemalan national, police said.
Authorities said a search of the home recovered a semiautomatic rifle, two handguns, ammunition, ledgers that indicated human smuggling and other evidence connected to the operation.
Evidence also showed that Hernandez managed and directed the operation, police said.
Hernandez was charged with kidnapping, money laundering, illegally conducing participation in an illegal enterprise and conspiracy.