Leader of alien smuggling organization sent to prison; Gville properties seized as part of probe

Maria Mendoza-Mendoza aka “La Guera”, 52, of Honduras, has been sentenced by a federal judge in Arizona to 120 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release after she pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit. 

Mendoza-Mendoza was indicted in January 2018 and extradited from Honduras to the United States in June 2023. As part of the indictments returned in the case, federal officials also said they seized four homes in Gainesville, according to The Tucson Sentinel. Mendoza-Mendoza lived for a time in Gainesville, according to an Internet search.

Mendoza-Mendoza was the leader of a smuggling organization that smuggled over 100 migrants from Honduras to the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona.

As the leader, she coordinated the movement of migrants from Honduras to the United States/Mexico border and to stash houses operated in Phoenix, where the migrants would be detained until their smuggling fees were paid. The organization utilized “funnel accounts” to collect millions of dollars in smuggling fees. Mendoza-Mendoza exercised her authority within the organization to assess punitive sanctions—she threatened to “bleed out” a guide as punishment and demanded that a migrant whose family did not pay his smuggling fee be thrown “back in the desert.”

U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA NEWS RELEASE: District of Arizona | Honduras-Based Leader of Alien Smuggling Organization Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison | United States Department of Justice