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By Mike Allen

April 11, 2017 (Potrero) – A former Potrero resident who was found guilty of smuggling illegal immigrants in 2014 had her ranch home seized by the federal government and sold at auction. But now a court has vacated, or voided, the most serious charges, so Kayla Rains seeks to have the auction funds returned to her.

Rains, then 47, was convicted in a San Diego federal court in December 2014 of seven felony counts related to the smuggling and housing of undocumented immigrants. Evidence presented at the trial suggested Rains and several other defendants conspired to smuggle people into the United States from Mexico, using her home as well as other locales.

She was sentenced to three years in prison, and the forfeiture of her ranch at 1390 Harris Ranch Road in Potrero.

Subsequently, Rains appealed her case to the 9th District Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel which ruled in January that three counts related to the smuggling should be vacated, and that the four forfeiture counts should be returned to the district court for a rehearing.

Richard Mark Barnett, Rains’ attorney, said she should have never been convicted of conspiracy charges of smuggling the undocumented people. “She was guilty of transporting them and harboring them,” Barnett said.

“The Appellate court agreed with us, and threw out three of the seven counts, and sent the forfeiture counts back to the district court for a re-hearing,” he said.

Unfortunately for Rains, the federal government already took control of her house in 2015, and in June of last year sold it at auction for $253,000 to an Upland couple, according to a filing at the San Diego County Recorder’s Office.

At a status hearing held April 10, the court set the re-hearing on the counts for June 5. “Our view is that the forfeiture was disproportionate to the conduct,” Barnett said. “We can find no other case where the conduct was so minimal and that an entire home was taken.”

Barnett said he was seeking the value of the home’s sale less a small ownership stake of Rains’ daughter. He said Rains served about 29 months of her 36-month sentence, and was released last year. He declined to say where Rains now resides, other than that she is in California.

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