Woman charged in Clayton with human smuggling tied to previous Wellesley Island attempt

·3 min read

May 26—CLAYTON — A Canastota woman charged this week with smuggling two undocumented Mexican citizens into the country is also identified in federal court documents as the "facilitator" of a failed attempt to smuggle two other Mexican citizens into the United States through Wellesley Island in April.

Karina Martinez, age not available, is charged in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling after allegedly bringing two people into the country illegally from Canada by boat on Tuesday and dropping them off in downtown Clayton.

She was not charged in connection with the April 4 arrests of two Mexican citizens who allegedly entered the U.S. illegally from Canada by raft and were found by U.S. Border Patrol agents hiding behind a tree on a Wellesley Island golf course.

According to court documents, Border Patrol agents were informed Tuesday by Royal Canadian Mounted Police that two Mexican nationals, later identified as Jose Guadalupe Martinez-Peralta and Kevin Martinez-Toral, were encountered on Thwartway Island, an uninhabited Canadian island on the St. Lawrence River directly north of Grindstone Island.

RCMP told border agents that they believed the two men planned to cross into the U.S. illegally because they had no camping gear and had been dropped off on Thwartway Island by water taxi, the operator of which told police that the men did not pay for a return trip to the Canadian mainland.

RCMP sent U.S. border agents a WhatsApp message on Mr. Martinez-Peralta's phone containing a message from "Kary" who appeared to be the organizer of the pair's alleged illegal entry into the U.S. RCMP were able to identify the phone number on the message as belonging to Ms. Martinez, whom Border Patrol agents had already identified as the "facilitator" of the Wellesley Island operation.

Around the time RCMP reported the men on Thwartway Island, a Border Patrol agent observed a gray Honda Pilot in Clayton bearing a California license plate registered to Ms. Martinez. According to court documents, the vehicle was previously used by Ms. Martinez in a human smuggling attempt through the San Ysidro, California, port of entry in July 2020.

At about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, a border agent received information from state police that a Hispanic female, "who was acting nervous," had just rented a boat from Clayton Marina on State Street. Border Patrol agents responded to the marina and found Ms. Martinez's vehicle parked there.

A Border Patrol marine unit saw the rented white boat with a red top leaving the marina and observed that there was one passenger aboard. The unit watched the boat until it entered Canadian waters, where visual contact was lost. About three or four minutes later, the boat was observed reentering U.S. waters with three people aboard.

According to court documents, the boat came ashore in Clayton behind the American Legion Post 821 on Riverside Drive, with two passengers disembarking and then walking down the village's Riverwalk. Agents questioned the men, Mr. Martinez-Peralta and Mr. Martinez-Toral, and learned they were Mexican citizens without any legal immigration documents allowing them to be in the U.S.

According to court documents, Mr. Martinez-Toral told agents that Ms. Martinez is his aunt and that they had made plans for her to help him enter the U.S. when she had driven to his ranch in Veracruz, Mexico, about a month ago. Mr. Martinez-Peralta stated that he is friends with Ms. Martinez and met her when she was in Mexico and that he is the uncle of Mr. Martinez-Toral. The pair flew from Mexico to Toronto and took a cab to Gananoque, Ontario, where they rented the water taxi.

At about 4:30 p.m., the rented vessel was seen returning to Clayton Marina with one female aboard. An agent approached the woman and learned she was Ms. Martinez, who is a U.S. citizen. The vessel allegedly contained backpacks belong to Mr. Martinez-Peralta and Mr. Martinez-Toral, as well as their passports and other personal belongings.

All three were held in U.S. Marshals custody pending detention hearings.