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Woman arrested for smuggling undocumented men through Hernando County, FHP says

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BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Texas woman was arrested in Brooksville Monday after Florida Highway Patrol said she was trying to smuggle undocumented men to Tampa.

FHP said 21-year-old Josselin Padilla Valladares was paid $900 to take six men from Houston, Texas to Tampa.

According to a release, an officer pulled Padilla over while she was driving southbound on I-75 in her white 2015 Chevrolet Suburban after it looked like the windows on the SUV were tinted too dark.

During the traffic stop, the officer said he saw six men in the car with Padilla, multiple empty drink containers and excessive air fresheners. He also noted the passengers seemed “unusually nervous.”

Based on those things, the officer said he became suspicious that the passengers were victims of human smuggling.

After determining the windows on the car were too tinted, officers asked Padilla to get out of the car. They also found a seventh passenger hiding in the trunk of the SUV.

Officers said Padilla told them the men were “employees for her uncle” and she was driving them to Tampa from Houston.

FHP said they were able to determine all the men were in the United States illegally from either Honduras or Mexico, and that Padilla, who was from Honduras herself, had a prior arrest for illegal entry into the U.S. in 2017.

After arresting Padilla, officers said she began to confess. They said she told them she was paid $900 to drive the men, who she didn’t know, to Tampa. One of the men was found to be Padilla’s cousin who was just riding with her.

The release said Padilla picked the men up from two houses in Houston.

Inside the vehicle officers said they found notes with each person’s information, a box of sandwiches and other snacks, two cellphones belonging to Padilla and $506.

Padilla was arrested and taken to the Hernando County Jail on six smuggling illegal individual into state charges. The six men allegedly being smuggled were taken by Border Patrol personnel.

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