San Diego

U.S. Magistrate Edward Infante has set bail for a mother and daughter suspected of transporting and peddling undocumented Mexican infants to American families.

Bail was set at $150,000 for Juanita Vargas-Ruiz, 52, and at $100,000 for her 25-year-old daughter, Melinda. Infante set bail on Tuesday after a hearing.

The two women were arrested Aug. 28 at Lindbergh Field after they turned over a 5-day-old Mexican infant to a couple working with Immigration and Naturalization Service undercover agents.

Ruiz and her daughter, Mexican citizens living in San Ysidro, were charged with smuggling illegal aliens after investigators determined birth certificates and other documents supplied by the women were forged at a Tijuana home for unwed mothers, said INS officials.


At Tuesday’s bail hearing, INS officials said they have additional evidence showing dozens of undocumented infants may have been transported by the women into the United States for illegal adoptions. According to authorities, most adoptive families involved in the smuggling ring believed that the children they were adopting were U.S. citizens.

Infante denied Assistant U.S. Atty. Bernie Revak’s request to hold the women without bail. He argued they would likely flee to Mexico. Infante, however, said he was satisfied that the two suspects would not leave the country if released on bail because of their substantial social and family ties to the city.

As of Wednesday, relatives and friends had not posted bail for the women and they remained in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.