A judge sentenced a woman in San Diego today to 48 months in federal custody for charges related to the smuggling of aliens and forced labor, a crime that experts say is widespread and growing in its pervasiveness in San Diego.

Gloria Eugenia Leon-Aldana was sentenced on human smuggling and forced labor charges, according to a release from the United States Attorney’s Office.

I wrote this story last year about a human smuggling and forced labor ring that was using a house in Escondido as a safe house in which the smugglers held groups of migrants while they waited for the migrants to pay the fees incurred for their passage across the border.

Here’s a snippet from the story:

It costs immigrants about $1,000 to $1,500 for the guided journey into the country. When they arrive, the immigrants often contact friends and relatives in the United States who pay for their release from the smugglers. But sometimes, as with the Guadarama case, those friends and relatives can’t or won’t pay and the smugglers resort to threats.

Sometimes the immigrants are enslaved by the smuggling ring and are kept locked up in the back rooms of ordinary suburban houses like the one on Cortez Avenue until the smugglers can put them to work to pay off their debt.

“Living in the shadows makes you vulnerable,” said David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego,

Leon-Aldana was convicted in federal court of running an alien-smuggling operation that brought migrants from Mexico and compelled them to work for the enrichment of the smuggling ring, the press release states. Her co-defendant, Mario Antonio Antunez-Sotelo, remains a fugitive.


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