Prolific Human Smuggler Extradited to United States from Honduras

A Honduran national has been extradited from Honduras to the United States to face charges related to human smuggling and money laundering.

Maria Mendoza-Mendoza, aka “La Guera,” will make her initial court appearance today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Tucson.

According to court documents, Mendoza-Mendoza is a high-level, Honduran-based human smuggling coordinator who, along with co-conspirators throughout Central America, Mexico, and the United States, was responsible for facilitating the illegal entry, transport, and harboring of numerous undocumented non-citizens (UNCs). Through phone conversations captured on wire intercepts, Mendoza-Mendoza is alleged to have directed the movement of UNCs and the collection of their smuggling fees. She also is alleged to have exercised extensive control over co-conspirators. The smuggling organization is alleged to have utilized numerous funnel accounts to collect millions of dollars in smuggling fees deposited across the United States and withdrawn primarily in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Mendoza-Mendoza is charged in an indictment with Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Illegal Aliens for Profit and Transportation of and Harboring Illegal Aliens for Profit, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.

An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This extradition resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is part of JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security , to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime.

Homeland Security Investigations – Sells Office conducted the investigation in this case, with significant assistance from the United States Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, and numerous state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The United States Marshals Service assisted with the extradition efforts. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, is handling the prosecution.