Woman who lied to feds about illegal immigrant husband’s flight from justice sentenced

RIVERSIDE  – A woman who drove her illegal immigrant husband from Moreno Valley to Mexico weeks before he was slated to be sentenced for entering the country illegally for the fifth time was sentenced today to three months in
federal prison.
A Los Angeles federal court jury in December found 36-year-old Elba Soto guilty of making false statements to U.S. Marshals, but acquitted her of another allegation of being an accessory in a felon’s flight from justice.
U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald imposed a low-term sentence on Soto, who will also have to complete a year of supervised release after she’s paroled.
The two-count indictment against the defendant was announced in October, about two months after her common law husband, Jose Guadalupe Vega Zuniga, fled south across the border — with Soto driving him in her Ford F-150 pickup truck, according to federal prosecutors.
Zuniga, whose prior convictions include drug trafficking and assault with a deadly weapon, was deported from the U.S. in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The Mexican national was apprehended last May in Moreno Valley, returning to Soto’s residence. It’s unclear how long he had been in the country illegally by that time.
Zuniga was stopped by Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, who suspected that he was driving under the influence, according to court papers.
Zuniga pleaded guilty on Aug. 3 to illegally re-entering the U.S. Soto, who has two children with  Zuniga, helped him post a $100,000 bond ahead of his Oct. 17 sentencing hearing, during which he was facing just over five years
behind bars.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Soto drove Zuniga to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on Aug. 18, where the couple crossed into Mexico and apparently flew together to Zuniga’s hometown of Zacatecas. Soto later returned
to Moreno Valley without him.
Soto took a GPS ankle monitor, which Zuniga was ordered to wear as part of his pre-sentencing agreement, back to his probation officer, telling authorities that she had no idea where her husband had gone.
Two marshals interviewed Soto on Sept. 6 about her travels to Mexico, specifically asking whether she had transported Zuniga across the border.
According to prosecutors, the woman insisted that only she and her children were in the pickup truck.
However, when investigators obtained surveillance video from the Otay Mesa crossing, they were able to clearly identify Zuniga in the passenger seat and Soto at the wheel, court papers stated.
His whereabouts remain unknown.

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