DeSantis' Martha's Vineyard Stunt Organized With Help Of Ex-Army Counterintelligence Operative, Reports Say


A former army medic and counterintelligence officer named Perla Huerta was involved in recruiting Venezuelan asylum seekers for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ headline-grabbing flights taking migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last month, the New York Times reported on Monday, as the political stunt now faces a class action suit and widespread criticism.

desantis' martha's vineyard stunt organized with help of ex-army counterintelligence operative, reports say

Rafael Eduardo (left) an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela hugs another immigrant outside of the Saint Andrews Episcopal Church, on Marthas Vineyard The Washington Post via Getty Images

Key Facts

The woman who first approached the migrants in San Antonio has been identified as Perla Huerta, a U.S. Army veteran who has served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Times report, also confirmed by CNN.

Details about Huerta’s link to the DeSantis administration and why she was chosen to coax the migrants, remain unclear at the moment

Huerta allegedly told them there were jobs waiting for them in Massachusetts if they agreed to board a free flight to the state and she reportedly also offered them $10 Mcdonald’s gift cards.

Those who agreed to board the flight were handed a map of the U.S., pointing out the location of Massachusetts and directions to the community services center at Martha’s Vineyard from the airport.

The migrants also reportedly received a fake brochure that promised up to eight months of monetary support until they are able to find employment, the Times report added.

A person who reportedly helped Huerta recruit the migrants told CNN he was led to believe they would be provided with help and shelter in Massachusetts and claimed he was unaware the entire thing was linked to a political stunt by DeSantis.

Key Background

Last month, a group of 48 migrants were flown onboard two chartered flights from San Antonio to the affluent Massachusetts island resort, Martha’s Vineyard. Their unexpected arrival created some confusion in the community until a staffer for the Florida governor took credit for the stunt on Fox News. The treatment of the migrants—many of whom were asylum seekers—triggered a wave of criticism and even reportedly stoked tensions between DeSantis and fellow Republican Governor from Texas Greg Abbott as he was unaware of the flights. A civil rights law firm representing some of the affected migrants has now filed a class action suit against DeSantis and his “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme.”

Big Number

$615,000. That is the amount the DeSantis administration paid to airline charter company Vertol Systems, to fly the 48 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard. Tracking data from FlightAware shows they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard on board Dornier 328 regional jets owned by Ohio-based Ultimate Jet Charters—a Vertol subcontractor.

News Peg

Vertol Systems appears to have close ties with Republican leaders from the state of Florida. Citing court records, NBC reported that the company had been represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Larry Keefe—who serves as DeSantis’ public safety coordinator. According to the Times, both Vertol and the company’s President James Montgomerie have donated to the campaigns of Gaetz and Republican state lawmaker Jay Trumbull—who played a key role in carving out $12 million from the state’s budget to fund the migrant flights.


Following the first $615,000 payment on September 8, Vertol was paid an additional $950,000 two weeks later for what the Times reports were “projects two and three.” According to NBC News, this payment was made to fly migrants to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware. The money came from the $12 million allocated in the state’s budget to shuttle undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from the state.

Further Reading

The Story Behind DeSantis’s Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard (New York Times)

Woman who allegedly helped arrange migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard identified by CNN as Perla Huerta (CNN)

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