When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis commissioned a private company to transport 48 unwitting Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last month, the Florida Center for Government Accountability flew into action.
FLCGA immediately began investigating the controversial move and played a key role in unmasking “Perla,” the mystery woman who rounded up — and allegedly misled — the immigrants in San Antonio before dumping them in Massachusetts.
Michael Barfield, FLCGA’s director of public access, tracked government-commissioned flights that indicated “Perla” might reside in Tampa. He then cross-referenced property records to pinpoint Perla Huerta, a former Army counterintelligence agent originally from San Antonio.
Barfield also learned Huerta had worked near Destin, where Vertol Systems, the GOP-connected private firm hired by the state to conduct the migrant flights, is based. Public records show Vertol Systems has received $1.56 million for the governor’s migrant relocation program from the state to date.
When contacted by a reporter with the New York Times, Barfield shared his information with the newspaper, which later confirmed from its sources on the ground in San Antonio that Huerta was indeed the “Perla” from the migrant-moving political scheme.
In an expose published Sunday, the New York Times named Huerta and quoted Barfield: “I have been doing this long enough to know that the state of Florida is being deliberately opaque about this incident. I do believe there is a misuse of state funds.”
Barfield and FLCGA are now following that money trail, which, like the rest of the migrant operation, has been shrouded in secrecy.
“Someone went to a great deal of trouble to erase any digital footprint of Perla and Vertol,” says Barfield. “That suggests they are doing so intentionally to throw people off the trail. Now we have $1.5 million of public money spent and we still have no accounting of how that money was used and what it paid for.”