After a tip from a hotel employee in Cut Bank, five Mexican citizens were arrested this month in Glacier County and are being charged with immigration crimes.
The five were part of a larger group of 19 people arrested and taken to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Sunburst on Nov. 17. Officials with the Border Patrol station won't comment on where all of the individuals are being held, or if any have been released from custody.
Four men were charged with illegal transport of aliens and conspiracy to transport them, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme’s office.
One woman was charged with illegal reentry.
The charges stem from a tip to law enforcement about suspicious room rental activity at a Cut Bank hotel, charges state. Hotel workers reported that every four to six weeks, several people had been renting a room for one or two nights, and then on the last night would rent three or four additional rooms, according to charges. Hotel workers said most of the group members on these trips would use only the side doors, and that they mainly stayed in their hotel rooms during the day.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents pulled over two SUVs around 11:15 p.m. on Sunday, charges state. In one SUV were 10 people. When the second SUV was pulled over, eight passengers got out and ran into a nearby field but were caught by border patrol agents, charges state.
In total, law enforcement picked up 19 people and transported them to the Sweetgrass Border Protection Station in Sunburst for processing.
It was not immediately clear what happened to the 14 people not charged in federal court.
CBP Agent David Lines said Friday the border stations can hold someone for only 72 hours. If law enforcement continues to detain someone after 72 hours, CBP will typically transfer them to a county jail or Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility.
Lines said he could not provide further information about the case because the investigation is ongoing.
Lines said the 19-person arrest was uncommon for Montana’s CBP stations, but that a group arrest of that size “happens all the time” at CBP stations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Down South this is considered nothing,” he said.
Alberto Guillen-Gordillo, 22; Omero Banderas-Rodriguez, 39; Josue Bermudez-Lopez, 26; and Samuel Velasco-Tovar, 28, were all charged with illegal transport of aliens and conspiracy to transport aliens. The charges both carry a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Ma Mercedes Rivera-Gutierrez, 39, was charged with illegal reentry. The charge carries a maximum of two years in prison.
Attorneys for the defendants could not immediately be reached.
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