A Guyanese woman has been arrested and charged for illegally transporting a boatload of migrants from the Bahamas to Miami in the US. The 44-year-old Marcia Sunita Pestano is to be tried in a federal court on May 7 but has been given a bond of $250,000 as an alternative to being remanded in custody.
Homeland Security had been conducting an undercover investigation of Pestano after it was noticed that she had been aiding undocumented individuals to enter the US through the Bahamas. It is uncommon to deploy such a sting in a human-trafficking case.
She had unknowingly met with an undercover agent on April 14 to negotiate the transport of seven illegal migrants. To that effect, she made a payment of $24,900 and $6,100 in Bahamian currency to move the people from Freeport in the Bahamas to Miami in the US. They were meant to travel the following day but little did she know that the vessel was operated by Homeland Security.
On arrival, the boat was intercepted by the federal authorities who discovered 12 unregistered migrants aboard instead of the initial 7. They were all interviewed by the authorities at the Coast Guard office before being transported to Diana Beach.
Pestano made contact with another agent posing to be a corrupt federal official to assist her with traveling to Miami so she could gain release for the migrants who had been arrested. Her journey was arranged and a meeting set up with two Indian nationals at a Doral Hotel. There was meant to be an exchange of cash for the release of the incarcerated individuals, instead, the authorities rounded the syndicate up.
It was discovered that Pestano had $13,000US and $26,000 Bahamian currency on her while the Indians had $33,950 with them. She has been charged for violating the US federal laws by aiding illegal migrants to enter into the country.