Woman sentenced for transporting undocumented immigrants

A Honduran woman with legal immigrant status was sentenced to two years probation Friday in Baton Rouge federal court after admitting that she illegally transported minivan loads of undocumented immigrants from Houston to Miami.

Eight months of her probation must be served at a halfway house.

Sonia Lisseth Suazo, 39, of Houston, could have been sentenced to as many as 14 months in prison under federal guidelines. But she begged Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson for leniency.

“I don’t want to leave my daughters alone by themselves,” Suazo said through a Spanish interpreter. “They need me, as does my mother.”

Suazo admitted she was driving seven illegal immigrants to Miami after her 2002 Honda Odyssey was stopped June 2 on Interstate 10 by a West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy. Her admission was reported in an affidavit by Special Agent Richard V. Lovell, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Lovell added that Suazo also admitted she had made four previous runs from Houston to Miami and that she was paid $300 per person smuggled to Florida.

One of the illegal immigrants discovered in Suazo’s Odyssey was Mario Noel Torres-Rodriguez, who Lovell wrote was deported to Honduras in February 2009 “after receiving a felony conviction for sexual battery on a juvenile in the state of Florida.”

Torres-Rodriguez was not mentioned at Suazo’s sentencing.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens said of Suazo’s actions: “This was a very serious crime.”

Jackson noted Suazo’s family ties, but said: “Mr. Stevens is correct. This is a very serious crime.”

Suazo said: “I promise never again in my life to be in this situation. I’ve asked God for forgiveness many times. I have made a change in my life.”

A. Hays Town III, Suazo’s attorney, told the judge her promises were sincere and she was a good candidate for probation.

Jackson ordered that eight months of Suazo’s two-year probation must be served in a Houston halfway house. The judge also fined her $500.

Torres-Rodriguez was indicted June 20 for illegally returning to the United States after being deported. He has since been deported again, U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said.