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Woman who allegedly recruited migrants to Martha's Vineyard identified

A number of media outlets have identified the woman migrants called 'Perla.' They say she lured them onto a plane from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard.

SAN ANTONIO — Migrants have identified the mysterious woman they say lured them onto a plane from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard in September, according to numerous media reports. 

A number of Venezuelan refugees recognized the woman, Perla Huerta, in photographs first presented to them by New York Times reporters. The migrants say Huerta, a San Antonio native, misled them about conditions in Massachusetts. 

But Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, leading an investigation into the incident, could not say whether his office is looking for or speaking to Huerta. 

"We have persons of interest and we know their names, but we haven't reached a point where we can publicly give those names," he said.

The situation is tricky, Salazar explained, because he's not yet formally accused anyone of a crime. 

Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard said a woman, lingering outside San Antonio's migrant resource center, promised they'd find jobs and homes if they boarded a plane for Massachusetts. But refugees reportedly believed they'd land in Boston, not on the resort island where local officials were unprepared for their arrival. 

One migrant told CNN that a woman named "Perla" offered him money, food and clothes to find others who would take the flight.

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A number of migrants have since joined a class-action suit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's said he chartered the plane. DeSantis told reporters his state has also hired operatives to identify migrants in Texas and offer them transport to a sanctuary city or state. 

DeSantis says his operatives are looking for migrants who eventually intend to reach Florida, though it appears none of the Venezuelan migrants were destined for the Sunshine State. 

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It's not clear whether there's any connection between DeSantis and Huerta, who lives in Tampa. 

Huerta listed her home for sale just weeks before the migrant's flight. She also left the U.S. Army around the same time. 

A military spokesperson on Monday confirmed to KENS 5 that Huerta served for nearly two decades as a combat medic and counterintelligence agent, responsible for handling sensitive information.

"That would seem to comport with the sort of general theme we're understanding from our clients: This was a covert operation, they weren't given very much information, and it was all kept sort of hush-hush," said Jacob Love, a staff attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights representing some of the Venezuelans. 

Love says his firm intends to add Perla Huerta's name to their class-action suit once investigators confirm she is the woman who allegedly misled the migrants. 

"We're certain there will be more people," Love said. "This was a wide-ranging scheme that involved a lot of different people." 

"It also seems like the Florida government, especially since we filed the lawsuit, has become particularly opaque about the details of this," Love added.

KENS 5 made several unsuccessful attempts to reach Huerta. 

In September, when KENS 5 asked if the San Antonio Police Department would get involved, Chief William McManus said, "I'm not going to comment on anything that the sheriff is doing or has done...If there's a comment to be made on that, I would respectfully refer you to the sheriff."

According to San Antonio's top cop, the premise of being lured is something he can't prove.

"I don't know. I simply don't know," he said.

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