A New Jersey mother is behind bars in the Rio Grande Valley after she allegedly smuggled a Guatemalan child in order to help pay for her daughter TMs quinceanera.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested 45-year-old Epifania Ponce-Ramos at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on human smuggling charges on Friday.
The Princeton, New Jersey mother of three brought down two of her children to the Valley where she allegedly attempted to use her third child TMs birth certificate to cross over an 8-year-old girl from Guatemala.
According to court records obtained by Action 4 News, Ponce-Ramos told investigators that she met a man that offered to pay for her daughter TMs quinceanera dress, her flight and then give her an additional $1,000.
Ponce-Ramos agreed and said she would pick up the man TMs daughter in Mexico and take her back to New Jersey.
The Princeton woman flew with two of her daughters from New Jersey to Pennsylvania where she then flew into McAllen.
Ponce-Ramos and her daughters were instructed to meet at Reynosa TMs San Miguel Hotel where they picked up the 8-year-old girl.
She and her daughters then took a taxi to the Hidalgo bridge where customs officers sent her to secondary inspection for further questioning.
Upon questioning, Ramos said she did not personally know who the 8-year-old girl was and handed over the phone number of the little girl TMs father who resides in New Jersey.
The 8-year-old girl is currently awaiting placement with International Educational Services in Los Fresnos.
According to court records, Ponce-Ramos TM two daughters are now in the hands of Child Protective Services where they will wait for relatives from California to pick them up.
Ponce-Ramos appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby on Monday morning.
Records show that Ponce-Ramos is an American citizen.
Judge Ormsby denied bond for her until a Thursday morning hearing.