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‘Stash house’ suspect taken into custody

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A local woman wanted on a federal warrant for allegedly operating a “stash house” for people in the country illegally turned herself in to the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office Monday.

Christine McDonald

Christine McDonald, 41, of Roswell, surrendered to the sheriff’s office at 8 a.m., according to a post on the Facebook page of the sheriff’s office.

“She contacted me last night and told me that she would like to turn herself in to me and I told her to meet me at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and she showed up,” Sheriff Mike Herrington said Monday.

He added that agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security later took McDonald into custody. Herrington said he does not know what, if anything, Homeland Security agents learned from McDonald about the “stash house” operation once she was in their custody, but Herrington said she did not tell him anything about the case.

McDonald was later transported to Las Cruces by Homeland Security agents, where she will appear before a federal judge some time this week, Herrington said.

A federal arrest warrant was issued last week for McDonald on charges of “conspiracy to harbor, transport, move or attempt to move aliens,” according to federal court documents.

The charges originate from the discovery of a “stash house” at 17 Concord Rd. owned by McDonald. Acting on a tip, Herrington, Chaves County deputies and agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement went to the property on the evening of June 14. When they arrived they found 7 Guatemalan males — including two teenagers — none of whom could speak English.

Herrington said June 19 that he and other law enforcement officials were later told a truck carrying more Guatemalans had left the Concord Road property shortly before they arrived at the scene. ICE later took possession of the 7 Guatemalan nationals.

A search warrant was executed June 19 on the Concord Road property by ICE agents with assistance from Chaves County deputies. Agents also sought to serve McDonald with a warrant for her arrest, but she was not on the property at the time, Herrington said.

The “stash house” was the second one uncovered in Chaves County so far this year.

In February, a similar operation was uncovered in Dexter along State Highway 285.

A total of 67 malnourished people from Guatemala and Ecuador — including six unaccompanied teenagers — were found stuffed in a 20 by 20 foot shed on wheels with minimal food, water and no operational toilet.

Tomas Miguel Mateo, 38, of Guatemala, was later charged with “conspiracy to transport illegal aliens” and reentry of an illegal alien. He later told ERO agents he was forced by members of a smuggling group to house and feed the people kept in the trailer, but did not reveal any names to the agents.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.