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Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens
A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigra

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Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens

A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Allison Mendez, 32, of Melrose Park,Ill., was arrested Feb. 13 and charged in a criminal complaint with selling false identification documents.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, between May 2012 and Jan. 2013 Mendez allegedly sold nine sets of false identification documents on six occasions. A set included a counterfeit U.S. permanent resident card (green card) and a counterfeit social security card.

During the course of the investigation, cooperating witnesses posing as customers allegedly placed orders for false documents with Mendez by sending her a text message with the photograph and the biographical information they wanted to appear on the documents. Mendez then delivered the completed documents to customers, charging between $80 and $110 for a set of counterfeit cards, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that during a recorded conversation with a cooperating witness, Mendez stated she had been in the counterfeit document business for about 15 years and that her software program could make social security cards, insurance cards, green cards and drivers’ licenses.

HSI was assisted in this investigation by the Chicago Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, with additional support provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the Addison Police Department.

If convicted, Mendez faces up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. As an illegal alien from Nicaragua, Mendez will be placed into deportation proceedings upon conclusion of her criminal case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Young, Northern District of Illinois, is prosecuting the case.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Four Men Arrested and Charged with Drug and Firearm Offenses

Federal criminal complaints filed in the District of Maryland charge four men, initially arrested and charged in Worcester County,Md., with gun and drug violations. The charges follow an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Maryland State Police (MSP), Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the Berlin Police Department and the Ocean City Police Department with the assistance of the Worcester County State’s Attorney Office.

Tony Lamont Mills, 32, of Berlin,Md., has been charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm by a felon. The second criminal complaint charges Ramon M. Diamos, 47, and Arlon J. Macatangay, 51, both of Jersey City, N.J., and Ricky Ibanga, 38, of Bayonne, N.J., with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute in excess of 50 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

The State’s Attorney for Worcester County Beau Oglesby said, “I applaud the combined efforts of Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Police, the Ocean City Police Department, the Berlin Police Department, ATF and HSI for their investigations in these cases. The adoption of these cases by the United States Attorney’s Office demonstrates the strength of the relationship between local and federal authorities as we work together to pursue the eradication of controlled dangerous substances from our streets and to remove the criminals who are armed with illegal firearms from our communities.”

According to Mills’ criminal complaint, on at least two occasions in August 2012, an undercover police detective conducted two hand to hand purchases of heroin from Mills after meeting Mills in his vehicle. On Aug. 31, 2012, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Mills’ residence and discovered Mills hiding in a bedroom closet, where officers also located a loaded .32 caliber revolver and a box of .32 caliber ammunition. During the search, officers also recovered heroin, marijuana and drug packaging material.

Mills faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for possession with intent to distribute heroin and up to life in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Mills also had an initial appearance Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and is detained.

According to the statement of facts filed in support of the arrest of Diamos, Macatangay and Ibanga, the three were pulled over by a MSP trooper on Route 13, near the Virginia state line for a traffic stop. The trooper learned that Diamos was wanted on a New Jersey warrant and he was subsequently arrested. A clear glass pipe and a small amount of methamphetamine were recovered from Diamos’ front pants pocket. During a subsequent search of the car, the trooper discovered a manilla envelope that contained 240 grams of crystal methamphetamine and a receipt in Macatangay’s name. Macatangay and Ibanga were then arrested and additional methamphetamine was recovered from Macatangay’s jacket pocket.

Diamos, Macatangay and Ibanga face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Diamos, Macatangay and Ibanga had an initial appearance Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court inBaltimoreand are detained. Ibanga is scheduled for a detention hearing Feb. 15.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael C. Hanlon and Christopher J. Romano.

A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

Texas Resident Sentenced for Smuggling Cocaine

A local woman was sentenced Monday, February 11, 2013, to five years in federal prison for importing more than five kilograms of cocaine.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Laurie Molina, 53, appeared before U.S. District Judge Alia Moses who sentenced her to serve 60 months in federal prison, and a five-year term of supervised release. Molina pleaded guilty to the charges June 18, 2012.

According to court documents, on May 10, 2012, Molina was entering the United States from Mexico through the Amistad Port of Entry in Del Rio when CBP directed her to a secondary inspection of her vehicle. During that inspection, CBP discovered more than five kilograms of cocaine hidden in the car battery. She was arrested and taken into custody following the inspection.

She remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

This case was prosecuted by the Western District of Texas.

Former Peruvian Police Officer Deported by ICE for Weapons Trafficking

A former Peruvian police officer wanted in his native country for weapons trafficking was handed over to authorities in Lima late Wednesday, February 13, 2013, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following his capture in Stockton, Calif.

Hector Antonio Llontop-Novoa, 51, was repatriated to Peru on board a commercial aircraft accompanied by Sacramento-based officers with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Upon arriving in Lima, the ERO officers handed Llontop-Novoa over to awaiting officials from the Peruvian National Police (PNP).

In July 2010, Interpol’s U.S. National Central Bureau received a “red notice” indicating Llontop-Novoa was the subject of a criminal warrant issued by Peru charging him with a “national security offense.” Specifically, Peruvian authorities allege that in July 2000 while Llontop-Novoa was serving as a captain with the PNP he supplied government small arms to a criminal or terrorist organization. The weapons were purportedly used in an armed assault that occurred in Peru Aug. 29, 2000.

Less than a month after the attack, U.S. Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Llontop-Novoa entered the United States on a visitor’s visa and subsequently received an extension authorizing him to remain in the country through Sept. 2001.

In April 2011, after receiving information indicating the Peruvian fugitive might be in northern California, the U.S. Marshals Service sought ICE’s assistance to locate and capture him. Llontop-Novoa was taken into custody May 17, 2011, by ERO’s Sacramento-based Fugitive Operations Team and officers from the U.S. Marshals Service.

This week’s repatriation is the culmination of a nearly two-year effort by ICE to gain Llontop-Novoa’s removal. Following his capture, ICE placed Llontop-Novoa in removal proceedings and an immigration judge ordered him deported in June 2012. He appealed the decision, but the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed the appeal late last year, paving the way for his removal.

“Criminals who seek to escape responsibility for their actions by fleeing to the United States will find no sanctuary here,” said Michael Vaughn, assistant field office director for ERO Sacramento. “As this case makes clear, ICE is working closely with its law enforcement counterparts here and overseas to promote public safety and hold criminals accountable as no matter where they commit their crimes.”

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 566 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE’s Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.

Guatemalan National Extradited to Florida to Face Drug Smuggling Charges

A Guatemalan drug smuggler was extradited to Tampa Friday, February 8, 2013, following an investigation by the Panama Express Strike Force, a task force that targets maritime smuggling. The strike force consists of several federal agencies, including: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Joint Interagency Task Force – South; and, the United States Marshals Service. The Guatemala government and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies also assisted with the investigation.

Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado, aka “La Tia,” 40, of Tecun Uman,Guatemala, was indicted in the Middle District of Florida Sept. 22, 2011, for violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.

According to the indictment, Hernandez-Preciado helped organize the maritime smuggling of cocaine shipments into the United States. She was allegedly involved in a May 2011 drug smuggling venture where the crew of a go-fast boat was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Guatemala, and law enforcement authorities seized 347 kilograms of cocaine. Hernandez-Preciado is charged with participating in a conspiracy with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. She is also charged with helping others distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.

Hernandez-Preciado was arrested in Guatemala Oct. 10, 2011. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

Wife of Philippines Senator Sentenced for Bulk Cash Smuggling

The wife of a sitting senator in the Philippines has been sentenced to five months of home confinement and 36 months’ probation after pleading guilty to charges of bulk cash smuggling resulting from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Marissa Tadeo Lapid, 55, wife of Philippines Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, was sentenced Monday, February 4, 2013, by U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd D. George. The defendant previously pleaded guilty to two counts contained in a criminal information – bulk cash smuggling and conspiracy to structure transactions to evade reporting requirements. In addition to the term of home confinement and probation, the court also ordered Marissa Lapid to pay a fine of $40,000 and forfeit $199,700 in funds found to be derived from the scheme.

“Bulk cash smuggling is a serious crime motivated by greed,” said Michael Harris, assistant special agent in charge for HSI Las Vegas. “HSI will continue to target those who seek to exploit vulnerabilities in our financial systems in order to earn, move and store their illegitimate gains.”

Lapid originally came under suspicion in November 2010 when she failed to declare $40,000 in currency following her arrival at McCarran International Airport on a flight from the Philippines. According to court documents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers subsequently found the money in Lapid’s luggage inside two socks and a cloth bag concealed under the suitcase’s lining.

HSI’s subsequent investigation revealed that, from January 2009 through June 2010, Lapid conspired with others to make 23 cash deposits of under $10,000 at multiple banks in the Las Vegas area, often on the same day, knowing the banks were obligated to report cash transactions of more than $10,000. In all, the defendant structured $159,700 in deposits.

HSI special agents arrested Marissa Lapid at McCarran International Airport Jan. 15, 2012, following her arrival on a flight from the Philippines.

Mexican Drug Smugglers Sentenced for Cocaine Conspiracy

Two Mexican drug traffickers were sentenced Friday, February 8, 2013, for their roles in a cocaine conspiracy. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Genaro Torres, 58, formerly of Laredo,Texas, and Maria E. Garcia, 64, formerly of Houston,Texas, were both sentenced by U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer in Rochester.

Torres, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, five kilograms or more of cocaine, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In addition, Torres forfeited $750,000 in U.S. currency, which he admitted constituted or derived from proceeds he obtained as a result of his illegal drug activity.

Garcia, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to four years in prison by Judge Larimer.

According to court documents, the defendants were involved with a group of individuals that distributed over 150 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico in the United States between 1991 and 2008. During the course of the conspiracy, cocaine was transported to, and distributed in, Rochester by members of the conspiracy. Cocaine was also provided to Houston,Chicago,New York, Atlanta, and the New England region of the country.

Since the early 1990s, Torres was involved in transporting quantities of cocaine across the Mexican-Texas border in the area of Laredo and thereafter distributing the cocaine. Torres was found by the court to have acted as a manager or supervisor in this extensive drug distribution activity. Between 2000 and 2008, Torres arranged at times for the distribution of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine to individuals in Houston.

As for Maria Garcia, by early 2000, this defendant was selling cocaine in Houston after being supplied by Torres. Between February and April 2000, Torres arranged the delivery of over 50 kilograms of cocaine in Houston to Garcia or her customers. Torres and Garcia are Mexican citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States. It is anticipated that both Torres and Garcia will be deported by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations upon the completion of their sentences.

“It’s often said that crime doesn’t pay and in this case that is especially true,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Western District of New York. “The hard work of our law enforcement partners and prosecutors has led to the take down of a major drug conspiracy. But in addition, we have literally taken the profit out of this particular crime syndicate. The money being forfeited will now be put to a much more positive use including continued crime fighting efforts.”

HSI and the DEA were assisted in the investigation by the Rochester Police Department and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank H. Sherman, Western District of New York, prosecuted this case on behalf of the U.S. government.

Operation Dark Night Charges 13 Additional Defendants for Sex Trafficking

A superseding indictment, returned Thursday, February 7, 2013, in federal court, has added 13 more defendants for their roles in an alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring operating in Mexico, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and elsewhere. In total, 25 defendants have now been charged in the superseding indictment, which follows the original 12-defendant indictment returned in January.

The federal charges follow a lengthy investigation dubbed “Operation Dark Night,” led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In addition to the 12 arrests and nearly 20 search warrants executed in January, federal authorities rescued 11 women alleged to have been forced into prostitution. The investigation of this case remains ongoing.

United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “The superseding indictment adds even more gruesome details to the allegations of an already reprehensible human trafficking ring operating within our very own communities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will not stop until all of those responsible are brought to justice.”

“The superseding indictment alleges that this sex trafficking ring was even more extensive and ruthless,” said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. “Over a dozen new suspects, including ‘johns,’ have now been added. Of more concern are new allegations that members of this conspiracy arranged to hold some of their victims’ children hostage in Mexico to ensure their compliance as prostitutes in the United States. The investigation in Operation Dark Night will continue until we have rooted out all of the bad actors in this conspiracy and have brought them to justice.”

According to allegations in the superseding indictment, some of the defendants would entice women from Mexico and elsewhere to travel to the United States with false promises of the American dream. Once inside the United States, these women were allegedly threatened and forced to commit acts of prostitution at numerous locations in Savannah, Ga., and throughout the southeast. Women were alleged to have been forced to perform as many as 25 acts of prostitution a day.

Tarver stressed that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a T-visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions. Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

Operation Dark Night was led by HSI, with assistance from the FBI; the ATF; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); CBP Air and Marine Operations; Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS); IRS-Criminal Investigations; the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department; the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office; the Garden City Police Department; and, the Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team.

Criminal Aliens Deported for Child Sex Abuse Charges

Two Utah felons separately convicted of sexual abuse of a child were deported Thursday, January 31, 2013, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Andres Sanpedro-Jeronimo, 30, formerly of Magna and Angel Adrian Jaurequi-Lopez, 24, formerly of Orem, were removed from the Salt Lake City area to Mexico after completing prison terms at correctional facilities in Utah.

In 2006, Sanpedro-Jeronimo and two other co-defendants pleaded guilty in Utah’s 3rd District Court to committing the 2004 sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Prosecutors said the trio took turns sexually abusing the girl all the while documenting the crime on film. They were turned in to police by a store clerk when they had the film developed. Sanpedro-Jeronimo was sentenced to a term of one to 15 years in state prison. He also pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges in connection to the photos. He was sentenced to 60 months, which was served consecutively with his state term.

Jauregui-Lopez was arrested in November 2011 by local police for sexually abusing a young girl. He was convicted in Utah’s 4th District Court in 2012 of sexual abuse of a child and sentenced to a term of one to 15 years. Being illegally present in the U.S. and having been deported three times before, Jauregui-Lopez was charged and convicted of the federal crime of illegal reentry of a previously removed alien. He served 69 days in federal prison before being deported again Thursday, January 31, 2013.

“Every day ERO officers track criminal aliens serving prison terms in Utah to ensure they are immediately taken into ICE custody when they are released,” said Thomas E. Feeley, acting field office director for ERO Salt Lake City. “These are individuals who have proven to be a danger to Utahans and it is ICE’s top priority in the interest of public safety to effect their removal from the U.S.”

ERO’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP) identifies potentially deportable aliens incarcerated in jails and prisons throughout the United States. CAP officers interview and review inmates’ biographical information. Although ERO initiates removal proceedings against criminal aliens through CAP, these individuals may remain in prison or jail to complete their criminal hearings or sentences. Under CAP, ERO uses a risk-based approach to make determinations about the detention and arrest of criminal aliens, with priority given to cases involving individuals deemed to be a security or public safety threat.

MS-13 Gang Members Arrested by Operation Community Shield

Two members of the Mara Salvatrucha aka MS-13 gang, Jose Rodas-Alvarado aka Mini, and Roni Arriola-Palma aka Maniaco, were arrested Monday, January 28, 2013, on charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, kidnapping, first- and second-degree assault, theft, and reckless endangerment following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Prince George’s County Police Department and Prince George’s County Sheriff’s office.

According to the arrest warrant, on Jan. 14, 2011, Rodas-Alvarado and Arriola-Palma along with several other MS-13 gang members attacked and forced a male victim into a minivan before physically assaulting him while in the 5800 block of 10th Place in Hyattsville, Md. The suspects allegedly undressed and threw the male victim from the van, dragging him into a wooded area, where they began stabbing him with knives. All suspects subsequently fled the scene.

HSI special agents and Sheriff Deputies investigating the whereabouts of Rodas-Alvarado and Arriola-Palma were led to the 6000 block of 20th Avenue in Hyattsville, Md.where Rodas-Alvarado was taken into custody and transported to the County Police Criminal Investigations Division.

HSI special agents and Sheriff Deputies located Arriola-Prima in the 1800 block of L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.where he was taken into custody after a brief foot chase. He was transported to the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, where he will await extradition to Prince George’s County,Md.

This investigation was part of HSI’s Operation Community Shield initiative. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and, or deport transnational gang members. HSI’s National Gang Unit’s goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 29,366 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs. At least 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 374 of those arrested were gang leaders and more than 4,163 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative nationally, HSI has seized 4,137 firearms.

The case is being prosecuted by the Prince George’s County States Attorney Office.