NEWS: American Held in Child Trafficking

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Subject: NEWS: American Held in Child Trafficking
From: Jyothi Kanics (
Date: Mon Mar 15 1999 - 11:48:10 EST

Friday March 12 12:23 PM ET

American Held in Child Trafficking

By GLORIA PEREZ Associated Press Writer

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) - Police have arrested four people - including an
American woman - in
an alleged scheme in which Mexican children were exchanged for money or job
offers and then
smuggled to the United States.

Eight children between the ages of two and 10 were found in a carpentry shop
on the outskirts of
Mexico City, apparently just before they were to be smuggled across the
border, prosecutors said.

Four of the children had been handed over to Layla Lewis Sepulveda, 51, of
Idaho, by their uncle,
Sabino Gonzalez, for $250 each.

Lewis Sepulveda, Gonzalez, an accomplice Ocampo Hernandez and one of the
mothers, Juana
Vilchis Nava, were arrested, police said.

Lewis Sepulveda had offered to find jobs for the children's mothers in the
United States, said
Agustin Montiel, head of the State of Mexico's special anti-crime unit.

Gonzalez, who police said confessed, said he was told he would get a $200
bonus for each child
once they crossed the U.S. border at Calexico, Calif.

None of those arrested have been formally charged.

Lewis Sepulveda told a television station that she had legal adoption papers
for the children. She
denied involvement in child-trafficking.

Police said some of the custody documents appeared to be fake.

Vilchis, a single mother, said she gave away her three daughters and one son
because she was too
poor to take care of them. It was unclear whether she received any payment.

``I don't have any way to give my children what they need,'' she said.

Four other children - all siblings - were given to Lewis Sepulveda by
Gonzalez after he convinced
their mother, Jovita Ocampo Hernandez, to give them up.

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