Citizen Tip In Tombstone Leads To Human Smuggling Arrest In St. David

CBP officer [Photo courtesy CBP}

A 40-year-old Arizona woman has been released by the U.S. Marshals Office and will instead be supervised by a third-party custodian until she stands trial later this year on federal charges of participate in human smuggling for profit in Cochise County.

Maria Martinez is charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with committing two offenses last month -the transportation of several undocumented immigrants for financial gain and conspiring with someone to do so. She was released from pretrial detention Friday after a federal magistrate accepted an offer by Ida May Mejia to serve as Martinez’s third-party custodian.

The release order requires Mejia to “use every effort to assure the appearance of the defendant at all scheduled court proceedings” and immediately notify the court if she becomes aware that Martinez has violated any conditions of her release.

Martinez came to the attention of the U. S. Border Patrol (USBP) on June 24 when a citizen going through the border security checkpoint on State Route 80 in Tombstone told agents of seeing several people run into the desert after getting out of a white Nissan Altima on a nearby road. Agents searched the area but didn’t locate the car nor any people.

But a short time later Martinez drove a similar vehicle through the checkpoint, telling agents she had been hiking in Tombstone with a friend. The complaint notes she was wearing open-toe sandals, there was dirt and large water jugs in the backseat, and she was the vehicle’s sole occupant.

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Martinez was waved through the checkpoint and proceeded north on SR80. A short time later, a different USBP agent noticed a white Altima with the same license plate pass through St. David with several people in the vehicle. A traffic stop was conducted.

“The driver, Maria Martinez, told the (agent) the passengers only spoke Spanish and that she had picked them up from the desert along the side of the road,” according to the complaint. “In a post-Miranda statement, Martinez said she needed the money because she lost her job and that she was going to be paid $2,000 USD. Martinez said she knew they were illegal.”

Among those in the vehicle was a female Mexican national who admitted entering the United States illegally. Another passenger was identified as Jorge Jimenez-Navarro, who was removed from the United States in early 2019.

Martinez is now waiting to learn her next hearing date at the U.S. District Court in Tucson. It may not be for several weeks as the court calendars have been slowed by COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile, Martinez has been ordered to surrender any travel documents including her passport and visas.