A Venezuelan exile activist is now awaiting trial in federal court after being arrested at Miami International Airport (MIA) Monday while trying to escape to Venezuela to avoid prosecution in an immigration fraud case, court records show.
Maylin Silva, 63, is in custody in Miami after federal agents stopped her at MIA only minutes before boarding an American Airlines flight bound for Caracas, according to a criminal complaint.
The arrest came after a dramatic escape attempt by Silva who cut off the electronic ankle bracelet she was wearing and threw it into a flower pot next to the entrance of the hotel where she stayed overnight, before trying to fly to Caracas, court records say.
Silva was trying to flee to avoid reporting to probation officers in Miami after she obtained permission from a federal court to fly to Miami following her arrest in New York City in connection with the immigration case, court records show.
Silva appeared in Miami federal court last week, wearing a khaki detainee uniform and sitting in a wheelchair. Federal Magistrate Judge Barry Garber reset a detention hearing after Silva requested more time to hire a local attorney. Her arraignment is currently scheduled for later this month.
Venezuelan exile activists in Miami said she was known in the community as head of a group opposed to the Venezuelan government called Todos por Venezuela.
The Silva federal court case began Sept. 15 when a grand jury charged her with, among other things, “conspiracy to encourage and induce foreign nationals to enter and reside in the United States” in violation of immigration law requirements.
According to the indictment in the case, from July 2005 through December 2014, Silva prepared fraudulent immigration applications that enabled foreign nationals to reside and work in the United States. The applications in question involved petitions to allow foreign nationals to travel to the United States for temporary work and petitions for foreign workers to become permanent residents.
Though Silva lives in South Florida, federal agents located her in New York in October, according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
After her arrest in New York, Silva was allowed to fly by herself to Miami to report to authorities in anticipation of her trial in connection with the immigration case, according to court records.
On Oct. 29, Silva was released from custody after authorities placed a monitoring electronic bracelet on one of her ankles. The following Sunday, she was allowed to travel to Miami to report to probation officials the next day in anticipation of trial in the immigration case.
But instead of reporting to probation, Silva went straight to the American Airlines Counter at MIA and purchased a ticket to Caracas on flight 967 scheduled to depart Nov. 2 at 9:44 a.m., the criminal complaint said.
Someone tipped authorities about Silva’s unauthorized movements and just as she prepared to board the flight, agents detained her after she cleared the security checkpoint. After the arrest, agents found on Silva a Venezuelan passport and about $11,000 in cash.
As she was led away, Silva told investigators that she had removed the electronic monitoring device and tossed it in a flower planter at the entrance to the Red Roof Inn motel on LeJeune Road near MIA, according to the criminal complaint.
An HSI spokesman said he could not comment because the case was still under investigation.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy