An East County woman who may have tried to fake her own death was sentenced September 14 to 18 months in federal prison for her role in smuggling undocumented immigrants through Jacumba Hot Springs.
Rebecca Alford, 41, who also uses the name Fatima Garcia, was in custody at Las Colinas Women's Detention Center until the sentencing, after being arrested for possession and transport of a controlled substance in July.
In June, sheriff's deputies were summoned to the Lamplighter Village Park in Spring Valley on a missing-persons report and found what looked like a murder scene in Alford's home.
About 20 volunteers and cadaver dogs, as well as the sheriff's department helicopter, searched the area for two days without finding any sign of Alford. Because it looked like Alford had been murdered, the case was assigned to the homicide division, according to a sheriff's department spokesperson.
At the time, she was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to smuggle humans.
According to the federal indictment, Alford rented a hotel room at Jacumba Hot Springs for four men who had just crossed the border illegally in August 2011. She picked them up after they crossed and drove them to the hotel, according to court records.
One of the men had a prior conviction for what the feds call an “aggravated felony,” possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.
In December, Alford pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling illegal aliens for financial gain. Then, a week before she disappeared, she was arrested by sheriff's deputies and charged with possession and transport of a controlled substance. She then disappeared from the Lamplighter, fueling speculation that she had been killed for cooperating with authorities.
Sheriff's deputies found her on July 1 near the Lamplighter and arrested her after a brief chase on the outstanding warrant they had.
"She's had a tough life and made some mistakes along the way," said Brandon LeBlanc, the federal defender who represented her on the illegal alien smuggling charges. "It was a good sentence."