Reports identify mystery recruiter linked to DeSantis migrant robberies as Tampa woman

SAN ANTONIO — The mystery woman who allegedly lured dozens of migrants onto Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ flights to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio has been identified by multiple media outlets as Perla H. Huerta, a former combat medic and counterforce agent. -US Army spy living in Tampa.

The The New York Times reported late Sunday that a Venezuelan migrant who worked with Huerta to recruit migrants confirmed her identity, and a migrant in San Antonio that Huerta had unsuccessfully sought to register identified a photo of her.

Related: Money from Florida migrant flight went to company linked to DeSantis adviser

CNN reported that a friend of Huerta’s confirmed her identity in a photo provided by a migrant. Photos have circulated of the woman – until now known simply as ‘Perla’ – after she allegedly recruited many of the 48 Venezuelan migrants outside a city-run shelter downtown from San Antonio and moved them to a La Quinta Inn, before they were airlifted. to the posh island of Massachusetts at the expense of Florida taxpayers last month.

The San Antonio Express-Newsciting unnamed sources, reported Monday that the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, which includes San Antonio, is considering 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 anyone of interest in the ongoing investigation. Asked about Huerta, Garcia had told the Express-News: “We are not publicly identifying anyone.”

Related: What to know about DeSantis migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard

The Associated Press tried numerous phone numbers and emails for potential matches with Perla H. Huerta or possible relatives, and got no response or the lines were disconnected.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said he is investigating whether the migrants lied or whether the two robberies last month broke the law. Some migrants said they were lured by McDonald’s gift cards and promises of jobs and housing that never materialized.

Related: DeSantis broke the law with Martha’s Vineyard robberies, say Democrats

US Army spokeswoman Madison Bonzo confirmed to the AP that a Perla H. Huerta left the military in August and served as a combat medic and worked in counterintelligence. She held the rank of master sergeant when she left the service and had deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti.

DeSantis said he used contractors for the operation, but he declined to release details or contracts.

The townhouse located in the 5300 block of Bayshore Blvd. belonging to Perla Haydee Huerta pictured Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in Tampa. Huerta allegedly recruited migrants on Governor Ron DeSantis’ flights to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio in September. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Huerta has been repeatedly documented in public records as living in a condominium near the south end of Bayshore Boulevard. She bought the property in May 2019 for $335,000, according to Hillsborough property records. The address also appears on her 2020 voter registration, when she registered without indicating a party affiliation.

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Court records show that Huerta also personally handled the state property insurance crisis. In 2020, she sued Southern Fidelity Property & Casualty Insurance, alleging breach of contract after the Bayshore condo, called her residence, suffered ‘extensive damage’ following a ‘sudden and accidental loss of water’ , which she said the company had failed to adequately cover.

The most recent filing in this court case is a notice that the Florida Department of Financial Services is working to liquidate Southern Fidelity Insurance – because it is one of several Florida insurance companies that has bankruptcy this year.

A woman wearing a real estate company shirt answered the door to Tampa Bay Times reporters Tuesday at the Bayshore condominium where cardboard boxes could be seen inside.

The woman gave no information about the house and did not say if she knew Huerta. She said no one named Huerta currently lives in the house. When reporters asked her name, she closed the door.

The property has been on the Zillow real estate site for almost 100 days. The listing says the home has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and measures 1,617 square feet. It is listed at $489,000.

The townhouse is in the Ballast Point neighborhood, just a few blocks south of where Bayshore’s iconic stretch of waterfront meets Gandy Boulevard. Heavy traffic moved north along the narrow carriageway on Tuesday afternoon under a canopy of tree branches.

A Texas-registered car was parked near the condo on Tuesday afternoon.

A man who was inside came out to meet a woman who had just arrived. Neither identified themselves or said if they knew Huerta. The two entered the house and then drove off in two separate cars, both with Florida license plates. The woman’s Jeep Wrangler had a New England Patriots bumper sticker on it.

Two unidentified people enter the townhouse located in the 5300 block of Bayshore Boulevard.  owned by Perla Haydee Huerta on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in Tampa.  Huerta allegedly recruited migrants on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' flights to Martha's Vineyard from San Antonio in September.
Two unidentified people enter the townhouse located in the 5300 block of Bayshore Boulevard. owned by Perla Haydee Huerta on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in Tampa. Huerta allegedly recruited migrants on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ flights to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio in September. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

While they were all inside, a real estate agent arrived whose client was interested in the house.

The man, who did not give his name, said he did not know Huerta or the history of the property.

Times political editor Emily Mahoney contributed to this report.

Related: Making sense of migrant flights: what’s true – and what’s not

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