'Perla' Lured Them Onto Planes: 'This Woman Lied to Us'

Woman allegedly involved in Martha's Vineyard flights IDed as ex-counterintelligence agent
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2022 9:50 AM CDT
Migrants Say 'Perla' Lured Them Onto Planes. Details Emerge
Migrants, who arrived on a flight sent by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Sept. 14 in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard.   (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP, File)

As a class-action lawsuit proceeds against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his role in transporting mostly Venezuelan asylum-seekers from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, apparently under false pretenses, media outlets are reporting more on the woman who supposedly lured them onto the planes that took them there. Attorneys for some of the 50 or so migrants who were transported to Massachusetts on Sept. 14 said a woman named "Perla" approached them in San Antonio, promising them housing, jobs, and assistance with the immigration process when they arrived in the Bay State. Now, CNN reports that that woman has been IDed as Perla Huerta, an Army veteran who had served as a counterintelligence agent and combat medical specialist.

A US Army spokesperson confirmed Huerta, who now lives in Tampa, Fla., had served for more than 20 years—a stretch that included stints in Iraq and Afghanistan—until her discharge in August, per military records cited by the New York Times. An attorney for the migrants tells both outlets that their clients have been able to identify Huerta via photos taken of her in San Antonio, and a friend of Huerta tells CNN that one of the migrant photos does indeed show Huerta. One migrant tells CNN he was approached by "Perla" to be a recruiter for other migrants, with the woman offering him cash, food, and clothing for persuading others to hop on the flights to Martha's Vineyard.

"My only will has always been to help people," he tells the outlet, noting Perla promised him that those he recruited would receive plenty of assistance when they arrived in Massachusetts. He also says he had no idea Perla was working for any type of government official. One migrant who realized he'd been duped once he arrived on Martha's Vineyard made an emotional call to his wife back in Venezuela. "My love, we were tricked," he told her, "weeping uncontrollably," per the Times. "This woman lied to us. She lied."

The paper also reports on Vertol Systems, the charter company that appears to have handled the flights, and that also has political ties to both DeSantis and GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz. There's a $12 million taxpayer-bolstered fund the Florida Legislature has set aside to transport migrants out of the state, but the asylum-seekers sent to Martha's Vineyard came from Texas. "I do believe there is a misuse of state funds," Michael Barfield of the Florida Center for Government Accountability tells the Times. Much more here, including the misleading pamphlets the migrants were reportedly given by "Perla" regarding benefits and assistance they would receive. (Read more Martha's Vineyard stories.)

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