SIOUX CITY -- A Sioux City woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally harboring a Guatemalan girl whom she and her husband had helped bring to Sioux City after the girl and her father entered the United States.
Amy Francisco said that she was aware her husband, Cristobal Francisco-Nicolas, had helped make arrangements for the girl and her father to get to the U.S.-Mexico border. Francisco then paid for airline tickets for the two to fly to Omaha, where she picked them up and drove them to Sioux City.
Francisco, 40, entered her plea in U.S. District Court to one count of encouraging an alien to come to or enter the United States. A second count will be dismissed at sentencing according to terms of a plea agreement, which was filed Tuesday and sealed.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. Francisco faces a maximum prison sentence of five years.
Francisco's husband is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next week. Francisco-Nicolas, 38, previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of encouraging an alien to come to or enter the United States and one count of unlawful possession of identification documents.
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A Homeland Security Investigations special agent testified at an August hearing that authorities believed Francisco and her husband helped the girl and her father, described as a friend of Francisco-Nicolas, come to Sioux City so the girl could serve as a surrogate to be impregnated and give birth to a child for them.
The girl was found wandering Sioux City streets on June 5, and she told authorities she had been raped by Francisco-Nicolas five times in five days before she escaped from their house.
The girl and her father were apprehended May 29 at the border near El Paso and released on an order of recognizance and supervision the following day. Using the tickets Francisco had paid for, the father and daughter flew to Omaha and were picked up there by Francisco.
Francisco, who is a U.S. citizen, and her husband reportedly left Sioux City on June 21 -- two days after authorities executed a search warrant at their home -- and traveled to Guatemala, where Francisco-Nicolas, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, has family. They were arrested July 10 while re-entering the country at a port of entry near San Diego.
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