Woman to return to prison in human smuggling case

HOUSTON (AP) - A judge ruled today that a woman who spent nearly three years in prison for her role in the nation's deadliest human smuggling attempt will return to prison for up to an additional four years.

Prosecutors won an appeal to return 48-year-old Norma Gonzalez Sanchez to prison, arguing that her original 33-month sentence was
"unreasonable" because it meant she would spend less than three years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle's office says Gonzalez Sanchez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants illegally under circumstances that placed the lives of people in jeopardy and caused serious bodily injury and death.

The May 2003 smuggling attempt resulted in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants, who were packed into the back of a tractor trailer. After discovering the bodies, the driver abandoned the trailer at a truck stop near Victoria, about 100 miles southwest of Houston.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes re-sentenced Gonzalez Sanchez to 84 months, but she will receive credit for time served. The case landed in Hughes' court after the judge who issued the original sentence recused herself following a federal appeals court decision to send the case back for resentencing.

The judge ordered Gonzalez Sanchez to voluntarily surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on October 20th.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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