A well-known Venezuelan exile activist, arrested last year in a case linked to immigration fraud, intends to plead guilty, according to Miami federal court records.
Maylin Silva, 63, is planning to change her plea from not guilty during a hearing scheduled to take place by month’s end before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles, according to the criminal docket in the case.
The change of plea likely will be the final chapter in a case that stunned the Venezuelan exile community when Silva was arrested Nov. 2 at Miami International Airport while waiting to board a flight to Caracas to escape court proceedings in Miami federal court.
Silva is well known as head of a group opposed to the Venezuelan government called Todos por Venezuela, All for Venezuela, and frequently appeared in rallies here and in New York calling for democracy in the South American nation. Silva also was known as someone who could help undocumented Venezuelan immigrants seek asylum or residence.
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The case began Sept. 15 when a grand jury indicted Silva on charges of “conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to enter and reside in the United States” in violation of immigration law, among other things.
According to the indictment, from July 2005 through December 2014, Silva prepared fraudulent applications for immigration documents that enabled foreign nationals to reside and work in the United States.
Though she lives in South Florida, federal agents initially arrested her in New York in October. After her arrest, Silva was granted bond and allowed to fly by herself to Miami under orders to report to the court upon arrival.
But instead, Silva bought a ticket to Caracas at MIA and was about to board the plane when federal agents swooped in and arrested her.
Before boarding the flight, Silva removed an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and tossed it in a planter at the entrance of the motel near the airport where she stayed overnight, according to a court document.
After her arrest, agents found a Venezuelan passport and about $11,000 on Silva, the criminal complaint said.
Silva pleaded not guilty on Nov. 9 and trial was set to begin Feb. 8. That date was canceled because of the planned plea change.
Had she gone to trial and been convicted by a jury, Silva faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. But because she plans to change her plea, the sentence is likely to be less, though she might be put in deportation proceedings if she is not a U.S. citizen.
Robert Michael Pérez, Silva’s attorney, said he did not want to comment because the case was still in proceedings.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy