The mysterious woman who allegedly lured dozens of migrants onto Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ flights to Martha’s Vineyard of San Antonio has been identified by several media outlets as Perla H. Huerta, a former combat medic and U.S. Army counterintelligence agent living in Tampa.
The New York Times reported late Sunday that a Venezuelan migrant who worked with Huerta to recruit migrants had confirmed her identity, and a migrant in San Antonio whom Huerta had unsuccessfully sought to register had identified a photo of her.
CNN reported that a friend of Huerta’s confirmed her identity in a photo provided by a migrant. Photos of the woman – until now known simply as “Pearl” – have been released after she allegedly recruited many of the 48 Venezuelan migrants outside a city-run shelter in downtown San Antonio and moved them to the La Quinta Inn before be flown to the luxury island of Massachusetts at the expense of Florida taxpayers.
The San Antonio Express-News, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, which includes San Antonio, considers Huerta, 43, a “person of interest” in its criminal investigation into the incident .
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Johnny Garcia said in a statement Monday that the office has not confirmed or identified any persons of interest in the ongoing investigation. Asked about Huerta, Garcia told the Express-News, “We’re not publicly identifying anybody.”
The Associated Press tried multiple phone numbers and emails for potential matches to Perla H. Huerta or possible relatives, but received no response or the lines went dead.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said he is investigating whether the migrants were lied to or whether the two flights last month violated any laws. Some migrants said they were lured with McDonald’s gift cards and promises of jobs and housing that never materialized.
U.S. Army spokeswoman Madison Bonzo confirmed to the AP that Perla H. Huerta left the Army in August and served as a combat medic and worked in counterintelligence. She held the rank of sergeant major when she left the service and was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti.
DeSantis said he used contractors for the operation, but declined to disclose details or the contracts.