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26 U.S. Couples Got Babies From Smugglers, INS Says

September 01, 1985|Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — At least 26 Mexican infants have been delivered to American couples in the last four months by a baby smuggling ring operating out of Tijuana, according immigration officers.

Clifton J. Rogers, deputy director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's San Diego district office, said Friday that he expects the number to rise as investigators continue sifting through evidence seized since the ring was cracked Wednesday.

Rogers said the 26 deliveries were made to couples in Indiana, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, California, New Mexico and Kansas since the end of April.

A mother and daughter accused of operating the ring remain jailed without bail in San Diego pending a hearing this week to determine whether bond should be set. Juanita Vargas Espinsosa, 52, and her daughter, Melinda Leyva-Vargas, 28, were arrested Wednesday after they delivered a 5-day-old Mexican girl to a couple at Lindbergh Field airport in San Diego.

Aided Investigation

The Washington state couple had agreed to help in an investigation of the ring after immigration officers told them that a child they had adopted earlier through the agency was an illegal alien.

Rogers said investigators are now poring over log books and other evidence seized during a search of the arrested womens' apartment in the border community of San Ysidro. He said information on the 26 confirmed deliveries came from the log books.

Rogers also said state judicial police in the Mexican state of Baja California are reviewing the evidence and have initiated an investigation in Tijuana, where two people believed to be principals in the ring live.

Rogers said arrest warrants are expected to be issued soon for the two and that INS officials in San Diego are on the lookout for them in case they enter the United States.

Officials believe that the ring operated by taking infants from unwed mothers staying at an unlicensed halfway house in Tijuana, just across the border from San Ysidro. They said Vargas Espinsosa operated the halfway house.

Rogers said that as many as 200 infants may have been delivered in the last two years to couples paying at least $5,000 for each child.

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