A woman on Wednesday admitted to illegally re-entering the United States after she was arrested with other Mexican citizens who were being taken across the U.S. border to Glacier County in November.
Ma Mercedes Rivera-Gutierrez, 39, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Montana to charges of illegal re-entry into the U.S. after she had been deported.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris accepted the plea and set sentencing for Feb. 6, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme's office.
She faces a maximum two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Rivera-Gutierrez was detained pending further proceedings.
Prosecution stated that she was found in Glacier County on Nov. 17, 2019, shortly after she entered the United States, according to court records. Rivera-Gutierrez had been removed from the country in 2001, 2007 and 2012 and had not applied for permission to re-enter. She admitted to walking back into the country north of Cut Bank, in Glacier County.
Last December, Josue Bermudez-Lopez, 26, of Mexico, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Montana to charges of illegal transport of aliens and conspiracy to transport them from Canada on Nov. 17 and earlier. He also admitted to being in the United States illegally.
Four co-defendants indicted with Bermudez-Lopez denied charges against them in December. Alberto Guillen-Gordillo, 22; Omero Banderas-Rodriguez, 39; and Samuel Velasco-Tovar, 28, all citizens of Mexico, denied they planned to transport and then transported immigrants illegally. The four men each face a maximum 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The five were part of a larger group of 19 people arrested and taken to the Sweetgrass Border Patrol Station in Sunburst on Nov. 17.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents pulled over a black Chevrolet Suburban traveling south on Highway 213 at about 10:45 p.m. and had reason to believe the SUV was being used to traffic undocumented aliens based on intelligence and surveillance. The agent pulled the SUV over and several people in the vehicle ran into a nearby field, according to the release.
Agents searched the field and arrested multiple people, including Rivera-Gutierrez.
The Billings Gazette previously reported that the charges stem from a tip to law enforcement about suspicious room rental activity at a Cut Bank hotel. Hotel workers reported that every four to six weeks several people had been renting a room for one or two nights, and then on the last night they would rent three or four additional rooms, according to charges. Hotel workers said most of the group members on these trips would use only the side doors and that they mainly stayed in their hotel rooms during the day.
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