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Woman found smuggling Chinese nationals from Mexico to US faces harboring charges

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

A Port Aransas woman faces human smuggling and harboring charges after she was found transporting multiple Chinese nationals, records show.

Sarah Ann Yardley, 58, faces bringing in and harboring charges for her role in an attempt to smuggle five Chinese nationals from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston in exchange for cash payment.

Yardley, who brought along a friend originally charged with harboring charges that were eventually dismissed, was arrested Jan. 27 in La Feria after U.S. Border Patrol agents witnessed Yardley and another woman picking up the group of people at a residence in McAllen.

The agents received information about a possible smuggling attempt days earlier from the caretaker of a stash house. Surveillance was conducted at 1322 S. 19 ½ St. in McAllen, where agents observed a Nissan Altima arrive at the residence.

“Moments later, agents saw the privacy gate open and then close immediately as the vehicle went inside,” the complaint stated. “The silver Nissan Altima was seen by agents exiting the residence through the same privacy gate approximately one minute later, at which time they observed three additional subjects in the rear passenger compartment who had not been there previously.”

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Agents followed Yardley, who was later identified as the driver, for about 30 minutes before La Feria police pulled her over for speeding. Immigration inspections were conducted on the driver, passenger and three people in the back of the vehicle, who were identified as Chinese citizens illegally in the U.S.

At the Border Patrol station, Yardley admitted to picking up the three Chinese nationals in McAllen, with the intention of transporting them to Houston.

Agents subsequently obtained a search warrant for the 19 ½ Street residence and found two more Chinese nationals on the property.

Yardley admitted to agents that she received a message the morning of Jan. 27 from an unidentified man who goes by “Oso,” or “Bear,” advising her to pick up three people in Pharr. Yardley stated she and her friend, a 34 year-old woman from Brenham, Texas, left her home in Aransas Pass early that morning and drove to the Rio Grande Valley.

Halfway into their trip, Yardley stated she had informed her friend that they were going to pick up three undocumented people and that her friend said she was scared.

Once in the Valley, Yardley told agents she was told to go to an IHOP restaurant in Edinburg and waited for an hour before receiving additional instructions from Oso as to where they were picking up the Chinese nationals.

She then drove to the residence in McAllen, entered the property, and three Chinese nationals got inside her vehicle, driving away before being pulled over by police.

“Yardley stated she had intended to transport the three subjects to Houston, Texas, and had been instructed to turn them over to an unknown female in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart upon arriving. Yardley stated that the unknown female in Houston would give her an unspecified amount of money as payment, and that she would later split that money with ‘Oso,’” the complaint stated.

The Port Aransas woman admitted to executing this exact scheme on three prior occasions, and that those people were mostly of Chinese descent.

“She also said that on her prior successful smuggling attempts, she would stop before the checkpoint and instruct the subjects whom she was transporting to get inside the trunk of her car,” the document stated.

Yardley’s friend, for her part, told agents that Yardley had asked her to accompany her for a trip to the Valley, and then to Houston.

The woman said she slept for most of the trip, and that when she awoke they were already in the Valley.

After arriving at the residence in McAllen, and leaving with the Chinese nationals, the friend stated she overheard a phone conversation Yardley had with someone in which she stated she had “picked up the package,” and that they were stopped by police shortly thereafter.

On Jan. 30, Yardley, at a detention hearing, was granted a $30,000 bond, records show.

On Monday, the government filed a motion to have the criminal complaint filed against Yardley’s friend dismissed.

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© 2020 The Monitor