A Phoenix woman became the latest Arizonan to be convicted and sentenced to prison for using social media to entice American citizens to participate in human smuggling of illegal immigrants, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed on Wednesday.
In a press release, the DOJ revealed Destiney Rae Montoya, a 22-year-old, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison by United States District Judge Raner Collins. The prosecutors explained that Montoya’s sentence was enhanced due to her status as the “coordinator” of the human smuggling operation.
The sentencing came after Montoya previously pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit in August.
She admitted to using social media to entice drivers to participate in human smuggling between 2021 and 2022, and the DOJ stated she was recruiting “drivers to assist with smuggling undocumented citizens further into the United States after their arrival.”
Federal and state authorities have repeatedly warned about the use of social media to recruit American citizens to participate in human smuggling schemes.
In August, the DOJ charged more than 20 individuals with similar crimes to those Montoya committed and offered examples of the messages posted by recruiters to social media.
One smuggler promised Snapchat users the human smuggling process was “secure” and could net them up to $20,000 for “a few hours of driving or sending me a person who can drive.”
At the time, U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino explained that a smuggling group’s “coordinators” use anonymous social media accounts to lure drivers, and said contrary to their claims of the process being low risk, wrote that he prosecutes “many drivers.”
While some coordinators, like Montoya, are traced by federal authorities who must confirm their identities through social media companies, some drivers are arrested in the act.
Two Phoenix teens were arrested in October after a chase that authorities said exceeded 124 miles per hour and required an emergency response from the Douglas Police Department, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, and United States Border Patrol (USBP).