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October 25, 2023Sells, AZ, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Woman sentenced to 10 years for fatal crash that killed noncitizens following HSI Sells, Border Patrol case

SELLS, Ariz. — An Arizona woman was sentenced Oct. 20 to 120 months in prison for transporting noncitizens resulting in a death. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Border Patrol and the Tohono O’odham Tribal Police Department investigated the case.

Sunshine Michelle Betters, 47, of Tucson, was sentenced to an additional 11 months imprisonment for violating her federal supervised release for a prior conviction for transportation of noncitizens.

“Human smuggling is a well-known dangerous criminal activity, and sadly, one that can lead to death,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown. “No one should pay with their lives, but when migrants place their livelihoods in the hands of a smuggler, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen next on their journey north. Let this unnecessary incident serve as a reminder that participating in smuggling activity is not the answer.”

On June 3, 2021, officers from the Tohono O’odham Tribal Police Department responded to a two-vehicle collision on State Route 86 on the Tohono O’odham reservation. Officers and detectives determined Betters was driving a vehicle that sideswiped an oncoming truck, which caused the vehicle to leave the roadway and strike a tree. There were two undocumented noncitizens in Betters’ vehicle. One of them, a citizen of Guatemala, died at the scene. Given the death of a foreign national, HSI and Border Patrol agents responded.

HSI agents determined Betters was transporting the two undocumented noncitizens for financial gain. They also discovered that prior to the collision, Betters — who was severely intoxicated — falsely believed she was being followed by Border Patrol agents and increased her speed. The combination of intoxication and speed were contributing factors to the collision and deaths.

Betters, who was on federal supervision for the previous conviction, pleaded guilty on Oct. 17, 2022. She also admitted that her conduct violated the conditions of her supervised release.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson handled the prosecution.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.