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Two convicted in illegal Montana border crossing case

Russell Smith Couthouse
Posted at 4:28 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 18:34:54-04

MISSOULA - A pair of Seattle residents accused of picking up six Mexican nationals who crossed illegally into Northwest Montana from Canada have been convicted of the charges in Missoula.

A jury convicted Miguel Angel Medina, 62, on Tuesday, Aug. 23 of transportation of illegal aliens following a two-day trial.

Co-defendant Leslie Patricia Rivera, 51 — pleaded guilty to transportation of illegal aliens before the trial began, according to U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich.

Rivera and Medina face a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

The government alleged in court documents that Rivera and Medina picked up six people allegedly entering the country illegally who had just crossed the international border from Canada near Rexford in Lincoln County, which is not a port of entry.

Rivera and Medina had left Seattle in a rented car the prior day and drove straight through.

A friend of Rivera’s had offered her $3,500 to pick up four people and drive them back to Seattle. At the time of Rivera’s arrest, she had received partial payment. Rivera paid Medina $1,000 to accompany her.

At approximately 5 a.m. on Jan. 19, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was notified of persons potentially attempting to illegally enter the United States.

The agent ultimately stopped an SUV with a Washington license plate on a US Forest Service road.

Rivera was the driver, Medina was the front passenger and six other occupants, who acknowledged being from Mexico and in the country illegally, were in the rear two seats.

All eight suspects were transported to the Eureka Border Patrol Station for processing. The six illegal aliens claimed to have paid from $180 to $7,324 to be smuggled into the United States.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol.