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July 29, 2021Tucson, AZ, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Tucson woman indicted for alien smuggling leading to death

ICE HSI, local law enforcement partners, conducting investigation

TUCSON, Ariz. — On Tuesday, a local area woman appeared telephonically in federal court on charges relating to the transportation of illegal aliens while placing a person’s life in jeopardy, causing bodily injury, and resulting in death.

Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Sells office and officers with Tohono O’odham Police Department and are conducting the investigation in this case.

“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the dangers of human smuggling resulting in a tragic death,” said special agent in charge, Scott Brown for HSI Phoenix. “HSI is committed to investigating these human smuggling organizations that prey on the vulnerable and have no regard for the sanctity of life. We will stop at nothing to bringing those involved to face justice.”

Michelle Sunshine Betters, 44, of Tucson, Arizona, was previously indicted on three counts by a federal grand jury. The court ordered Betters detained pending trial, which is scheduled for Sept. 8.

On June 3, 2021 the Tohono O’odham Police Department responded to a two-vehicle crash on State Route 86. The investigation revealed that Betters was driving a car that sideswiped a truck, then left the roadway and struck a tree. There were two other passengers in the car, both of whom were determined to be undocumented non-citizens. One of the non-citizens was declared deceased at the scene, and the other was transported to the hospital to be treated for various injuries.

“These events highlight the incredibly dangerous nature of human smuggling attempts,” said Acting United States Attorney Glenn B. McCormick. “Illegally transporting non-citizens is hazardous for all involved – the transporter, the non-citizens, and the general public. The possibility of a tragedy is always present, and it sadly became a reality this time.”

An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Tucson Office of the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, is handling the prosecution.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of ICE responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.