Sunshine Michelle Betters, 47, of Tucson, was sentenced last week by United States District Judge Jennifer G. Zipps to 120 months in prison for Transportation of Illegal Aliens Resulting in Death. Betters also was sentenced to an additional 11 months imprisonment for violating her federal supervised release for a prior conviction for Transportation of Illegal Aliens.
On June 3, 2021, the Tohono O’odham Police Department (TOPD) responded to a two-vehicle collision on State Route 86 on the Tohono O’odham reservation. TOPD officers and detectives determined Betters was driving a vehicle which sideswiped an oncoming truck, which caused the vehicle to leave the roadway and strike a tree. There were two occupants in Betters’ vehicle, both undocumented noncitizens illegally present in the United States. One of those undocumented noncitizens, a citizen of Guatemala, died at the scene. Given the death of a foreign national, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Border Patrol responded.
Through further investigation, HSI agents determined Betters was transporting the two undocumented noncitizens for financial gain. They also discovered that prior to the collision Betters, who was severely intoxicated, falsely believed she was being followed by Border Patrol and thus increased her speed. The combination of intoxication and speed were contributing factors to the collision and death.
Betters, who was on federal supervision for a previous conviction for Transportation of Illegal Aliens, pleaded guilty on October 17, 2022. She also admitted that her conduct violated the conditions of her supervised release.
Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protections U.S. Border Patrol, and the Tohono O’odham Tribal Police Department conducted the investigation in this case. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.