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S. African who sneaked into U.S. will be deported

SHARE S. African who sneaked into U.S. will be deported

HOUSTON — A South African woman whose arrest heightened fears that terrorists were slipping across the U.S.-Mexico border has been sentenced to time served and will be deported.

Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed, sentenced Tuesday, had been in custody since July 19, when Border Patrol officers at the airport stopped her as she tried to board a plane for New York; she did not have a visa to travel in the United States.

The officers later discovered her passport had three pages ripped out of it.

Ahmed, 48, also was carrying about $7,300 in various currencies as well as flight itineraries indicating she traveled from Johannesburg on July 8, via Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to London, then to Mexico City on or about July 14.

South Africans don't need visas to travel in those countries. She admitted sneaking into the United States illegally by wading across the Rio Grande.

She pleaded guilty in September to illegal entry, lying to a federal agent and using an altered passport and faced a maximum sentence of about 15 years. Art Moreno, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said she would remain in custody until deportation.

Officials have declined to say why she sneaked into the country and whether she had any ties to terrorist organizations.

Nancy Herrera, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said she could not comment. A spokesman for the FBI office in San Antonio did not immediately return a call seeking comment.