Making Immigration Happen
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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Nicaraguan National Sentenced for Drug Trafficking and Firearms Conspiracy

A Nicaraguan man was sentenced Thursday, January 31, 2013, to 19 years and seven months in prison on drug trafficking conspiracy charges and 15 years in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to provide weapons to a designated terrorist organization. The sentences resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration and an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

During the conspiracy, Franklin William McField-Bent, aka “Buda,” 55, had numerous meetings and phone calls with undercover Colombian law enforcement officers who claimed to be members of a foreign terrorist organization. McField-Bent tried to help them obtain weapons, which he believed would be used in attacks on the Colombian government. In March 2010, McField-Bent arranged the sale of six grenade launchers, 20 grenades, an Uzi submachine gun and 100 rounds of ammunition to the undercover officers. He also admitted to participating in three shipments of cocaine originating in Central America, all while knowing they were destined for the United States. Each shipment consisted of hundreds of kilograms of the drug.

“The arrest, conviction and subsequent sentencing of McField-Bent is an important accomplishment for theU.S.government and its international partners due to the magnitude of his criminal violations and the threat to the homeland,” said Alysa D. Erichs, special agent in charge of HSI Miami. “We will continue to work with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify and dismantle drug and weapons trafficking organizations.”

Organized crime drug enforcement task forces identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, as well as those organizations responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

ICE Target Operation Arrests 51 Immigration Fugitives and Criminal Aliens in Chicago Area

As part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators, 51 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested last week during a four-day operation in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana.

This operation concluded Sunday, January 27, 2013, and was conducted by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago.

Of the 51 arrested, 44 had prior convictions for crimes such as: child molesting, aggravated battery, drunken driving, criminal sexual abuse, fraud and drug possession. Eighteen of the 51 were immigration fugitives who had been previously ordered to leave the country, but failed to depart; some of these also had prior criminal convictions, in addition to an outstanding deportation order. Nine of those arrested had been previously deported, but illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony.

Of the 46 men and five women arrested, 41 are Mexican nationals; one national from each of the following countries was also arrested: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Jordan, Korea, Pakistan and Poland.

Arrests were made in Chicago and the following 25 northern Illinois communities: Addison, Algonquin, Bellwood, Berwyn, Blue Island, Cicero, Crest Hill, Elgin, Elmwood Park, Evanston, Franklin Park, HanoverPark, Joliet, Justice, Lansing, Maywood, Melrose Park, NorthLake, Oak Brook, Palatine, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park, Streamwood, Wauconda and Westmont. Arrests were also made in the northern Indiana communities of East Chicago, Hammond, Highland, Munster and Valparaiso.

Following are summaries of two individuals arrested during this operation:

  • A 39-year-old Syrian national has eight aggravated felony convictions for residential burglary, retail theft, theft, burglary and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested Jan. 23 in Melrose Park, Ill., and remains in ICE custody pending a hearing before a federal immigration judge.
  • A 25-year-old Mexican national is a registered sex offender with prior criminal convictions for sexually exploiting a child, public indecency and lewd exposure. He was arrested Jan. 27 in Elgin, Ill., and remains in ICE custody pending removal from the United States.

“Our focus on criminals has an immediate positive impact by significantly improving the safety and security of our communities,” said Ricardo Wong, field office director for ERO Chicago. “By arresting and removing criminals and egregious immigration violators, we ensure the best use of agency resources and a continued focus on public safety.”

This enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives.

ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system, including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Honduras Man Deported by ICE; Wanted for Violent Murder with Machete

An illegal alien residing in Randallstown, Md. wanted in Honduras, his native country, for homicide and robbery was deported early Friday, January 25, 2013, by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). He was turned over to Honduran law enforcement authorities after arriving on an ICE Air Operations repatriation charter flight.

Oscar Orlando Amador Centeno, 30, a known MS-13 gang member, was deported Jan. 29, 2010 for the offense of illegal entry into the U.S. and illegally re-entered the country at an unknown time and place. He was arrested April 9, 2012 by ERO Baltimore officers attached to the U.S. Marshal’s Service Capital Area Regional Task Force at his Maryland residence after he was identified as illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, a federal felony offense. Prior to his arrest, the task force obtained an Interpol Red Notice issued September 2011, stating that Amador Centeno was wanted in his native country pursuant to an Aug. 12, 2011 arrest warrant for murder and robbery. On Aug. 1, 2012, he was convicted of re-entry of removed alien inMarylandand sentenced to four months with credit for time served. On Sept. 28, 2012, he was released to ICE custody on a detainer.

“Removing known gang members and foreign fugitives from theU.S.is an ICE priority in maintaining the safety and quality of life that the citizens of Marylandexpect,” said Calvin McCormick, field office director for ERO Baltimore. “This deportation should serve as a reminder to foreign fugitives who mistakenly believe they can elude justice by fleeing to the U.S. ICE will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners, both domestic and abroad, not only to ensure that criminals are held accountable for their actions, but to safeguard the rights of law-abiding citizens here and overseas.”

According to Amador Centeno’s Interpol Red Notice, on July 19, 2010 in Olancho, Honduras, he struck his victim three times in the head with a machete on a soccer field and stole their wallet. If convicted on the murder charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

ERO has removed numerous individuals wanted for violent crimes to Honduras. This is attributed to the expanded cooperation between ICE and law enforcement authorities in Honduras to identify, arrest and repatriate Honduran criminal suspects who flee to the U.S. to avoid justice. ICE officers are working closely with the Honduras National Police Interpol Officers and Honduras Immigration as part of this effort. As a result, in fiscal year 2012, ICE assisted the Honduras National Police in taking custody of 60 suspected criminals, immediately upon their return to Honduras aboard ICE Air Operations removal flights. More than a fourth of those suspects involved homicide related charges.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 566 foreign fugitives from theU.S.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 U.S. and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.

California Man Convicted for Smuggling Heroin in Tortilla Press

A Bay Area man faces at least 10 years in prison after being found guilty Tuesday, January 22, 2013, by a federal jury on charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to import heroin into the United States from Mexico.

Mike Gama, 23, of Mountain View, was convicted of both possession with intent to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and importation of a kilogram or more of heroin. The charges are the result of an 18-month probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The jury found that Gama had knowingly participated in a scheme to import heroin into the U.S. when he accepted delivery of a package containing more than a kilogram of heroin concealed inside a wooden tortilla press. The guilty verdict followed a weeklong jury trial.

Evidence presented during the trial showed that on June 20, 2011, Gama received a package shipped from Michoacan, Mexico, via DHL Express. Inside the package, which was addressed to Gama, was a wooden tortilla press containing more than one kilogram of a black tar-like substance. Subsequent lab tests confirmed the substance was Mexican black tar heroin. After Gama signed for the package, HSI special agents executed a search warrant to recover the parcel containing the heroin.

The package was initially intercepted by CBP officers inspecting arriving international shipments at DHL’s hub in Cincinnati, Ohio. CBP alerted HSI special agents inSan Jose, who then made preparations to seize the parcel when it arrived in California.

Following the guilty verdict, Gama, who had been free on bond, was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. His sentencing is scheduled for April 15 before U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for each of the two counts is life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary G. Fry and Amie D. Rooney, with further support provided by Tracey Andersen and Laurie Worthen.

ICE Convicts Record Number of Illegal Aliens in South Texas During 2012

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) efforts led to a record number of aliens being federally prosecuted in south Texas in fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30.U.S.attorneys in the Southern and Western Districts of Texas successfully obtained convictions for 2,417 criminal aliens who illegally re-entered the United States after having been previously deported.

“These prosecutions send an important message to criminal aliens who believe they can treat deportation as little more than a revolving door. That message is, ‘there are significant consequences for flagrantly disregarding our laws,'” said Enrique Lucero, field office director for ERO San Antonio.

The San Antonio Violent Criminal Alien Section (VCAS) was established in 2008. Officers assigned to the unit are focused on pursuing prosecution for aliens with felony convictions who have been deported and have illegally re-entered the United States. Of the cases referred by the San Antonio VCAS since 2008, nearly 6,800 federal convictions have been obtained. Any alien who is deported based on a felony conviction, and who illegally re-enters the United States, commits a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Following are three examples of aliens who have been federally prosecuted by San Antonio’s VCAS unit for illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously deported:

  • A 35-year-old Mexican man, who is a convicted felon, was sentenced in October to seven years in federal prison. Some of his prior convictions include: possessing a firearm/knife during commission of felony, drug trafficking, and hit-and-run.
  • A 34-year-old Mexican man, who is a convicted felon and had been deported multiple times, was sentenced in August to eight years in federal prison. Some of his prior convictions include: burglary, alien smuggling and possessing a controlled substance.
  • A 40-year-old Mexican man, who is a convicted felon, was sentenced in July to five years in federal prison. Some of his prior convictions include: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, assault causing bodily injury to a family member, and drunken driving.

In central and south Texas, 2,003 aliens were federally prosecuted in fiscal year 2010, and 2,370 aliens in fiscal year 2011. According to ERO, the local increase in felony immigration cases stems from greater investigative and prosecutorial resources dedicated to such offenses.

Previously deported aliens targeted for criminal prosecution are those who have been re-arrested in the Southern or Western Districts of Texas. Historically, most aliens federally prosecuted for “re-entry after deportation” usually receive sentences of between two to 10 years in federal prison. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or those criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Lithuanian National Deported for 2005 Murder of Chicago College Student

A Lithuanian national, who was convicted of second-degree murder for his role in the 2005 beating death of University of Illinois at Chicago student Tombol Malik, was deported Wednesday, January 23, 2013, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Mantas Matulis, 27, was deported via commercial flight Tuesday, January 22, 2013, under the escort of ERO officers and arrived Jan. 23 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Matulis was convicted of second-degree murder in the Circuit Court of Cook County May 18, 2007, in connection with the Chicago slaying of 23-year-old Tombol Malik. Malik was beaten to death with a bicycle lock near the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus July 9, 2005. Matulis’ co-defendant, Muaz Haffar, fled to Syria before trial and was convicted in absentia April 16, 2007, of second-degree murder.

Matulis was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the crime, receiving credit for the 670 days of the time he had already served. He was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections Nov. 29, 2012, and turned over to ICE. He remained in ICE custody until his removal.

Matulis entered the United States March 23, 2000, as a U.S. permanent resident. ERO officers encountered Matulis at the Dixon Correctional Center in 2008 and placed him into removal proceedings. On March 10, 2009, Matulis was issued an administrative removal order by a federal immigration judge in Chicago.

“This individual’s conviction and resulting deportation underscore ICE’s commitment to promoting public safety,” said Ricardo Wong, field officer director for ERO Chicago. “We hope this case will serve as a stern reminder about the consequences awaiting those who show such willful disregard for our nation’s laws.”

Nigerian National Guilty of Wire Fraud

A Nigerian man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday, January 15, 2013, to wire fraud. The guilty plea is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Adebowale Ayodeji Owoaje, 31, pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud individuals who were selling items and applying for jobs on Internet website craigslist. Using various aliases when he was located overseas, Owoaje used email to reach an agreement with the individuals on the sale price of items or terms of employment, including funds for a purported bonus or training materials.

From overseas, Owoaje sent counterfeit cashier’s checks to his co-conspirators in the United States. Based on instructions from Owoaje, a co-conspirator typed amounts on counterfeit cashier’s checks that exceeded the sales price or bonus agreed to by Owaoje and the individuals. The co-conspirator then mailed the counterfeit cashier’s checks to the individuals.

Owoaje informed individuals that a check in the wrong amount was sent to them by “mistake.” He then asked individuals to deposit that check in their bank account and to keep the amount Owoaje owed the individual, plus an additional sum for their trouble. Owoaje instructed individuals to wire the balance of the money via Western Union to a co-conspirator, whom Owoaje falsely represented to individuals as his secretary or shipping agent. Only after wiring this money did individuals learn that the cashier’s checks they received were counterfeit.

“HSI aggressively pursues these scam artists, even when they concoct and perpetrate their schemes from a foreign country with a perceived sense of anonymity and security,” said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “This case also serves as a reminder to U.S. citizens that if a business proposition sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scheme. HSI special agents were successful in identifying a manipulative criminal, who is now being held accountable for his crimes.”

Owoaje is scheduled to be sentenced April 15, 2013 and faces up to 80 years in federal prison, a three-year period of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million.

U.S. Citizen Residing in Mexico Convicted for Smuggling Methamphetamine

A federal jury on Friday, January 18, 2013, convicted a woman, a U.S. citizen who resided in Reynosa,Mexico, on one count of possessing with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of methamphetamine, announced U.S Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This conviction resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jennifer Ellen Marie Rodriguez, 31, was convicted by a jury following a three day trial. During the trial, the government presented testimony that Rodriguez was pulled over June 23, 2012, by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper near Encino. During that traffic stop, Rodriguez claimed to be traveling to San Antonio to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Rodriguez did not know the name or location of the funeral home and did not have appropriate attire expected for such an event.

Rodriguez provided consent to search her vehicle and was arrested after the methamphetamine was discovered hidden in a void behind the vehicle’s dashboard. The government also provided evidence that Rodriguez’s grandfather was a lifelong resident of Michigan and had passed away in 2011.

Rodriguez admitted at trial that she made up the story about the funeral. She testified she did not know the drugs were hidden in her vehicle, but was driving to San Antonio to exchange the vehicle for her kidnapped cousin. Rodriguez claimed that on the previous day, her cousin was kidnapped in Mexico and kidnappers demanded she deliver the vehicle to San Antonio in exchange for her cousin.

The government countered with evidence demonstrating that Rodriguez never told this story to law enforcement at the time of her arrest. In fact, the government proved that Rodriguez had only made the claim just a few days before trial began.

Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced April 24, at which time she faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life imprisonment, as well as a possible $10 million fine. Rodriguez will remain in custody pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad W. Cowan, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

20 Indicted for Marijuana Trafficking Ring

A federal indictment, returned by a grand jury December 2012, was unsealed Friday, January 18, 2013, charging 20 Dallas-Fort Worth area residents with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

More than half of the defendants are in custody, following an operation this week conducted by the following law enforcement agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI); the Dallas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA); the Desoto, Dallas, Balch Springs, Arlington and Midlothian police departments; Dallas County Sheriff’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

This announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

During the course of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation, law enforcement executed federal and state search warrants that resulted in the seizure of about 25 pounds of hydroponic marijuana, more than 600 marijuana plants, 10 vehicles and five firearms.

The indictment charges the below-named defendants in the drug conspiracy:

  • Sylvespa Eugene Adams, aka “Sylvesta Adams,” “Pa,” and “Paw,” 25,
  • Alma Diane Smith, aka “Diane Williams,” 30,
  • Michael Wayne-Cortez Ayers, aka “Big Mike,” 33,
  • Isaac Demon Mathis, aka “Ike” “Issac Damone Mathis,” 30,
  • David Laploise Jones, aka “Nino,” 31,
  • Kory Lamonte Crayton, aka “Mokmu Tave” and “Coon,” 39,
  • Taurus Kion Silmom, aka “T.K.,” 30,
  • Nathan Dewayne Brown, 21,
  • Connell Heads, 50,
  • Marvin Jamel Fantroy, aka “Seven,” 32,
  • Lamondrius Denard Kidd, 28,
  • Modrick Jamal Spencer, 28,
  • Waymon Madison, 39,
  • Edward Lee Witherspoon, 50,
  • Robin James Criss, aka “June Bug,” 30,
  • Andre Demacus Reid, aka “Black,” 27,
  • Rachael O’Neal, 20,
  • Natasha Brown, 34,
  • Jovanna Renee Bonner, 19, and
  • Precious Starr Lecreas Gowans, 30.

Defendants Sylvespa Eugene Adams and Alma Diane Smith are also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment alleges that since January 2010, Adams and Smith conspired together, and with others, to conduct financial transactions involving the proceeds of their crime that were designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source or ownership of the proceeds. The indictment alleges the following:

  • they stored and concealed drug proceeds,
  • caused cash to be transported as payment for drugs,
  • disposed of proceeds derived from the distribution and sale of narcotics by purchasing assets to conceal and disguise the nature and source of the proceeds,
  • structured deposits of U.S. currency, and
  • used a business front to create the appearance of a legitimate of source of funds to hide the true nature and source of the funds.

A federal indictment is an accusation by a grand jury; a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. If convicted, however, the conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana count carries a statutory sentence of at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison and a $5 million fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count, upon conviction, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.

In addition, the indictment includes a forfeiture allegation, which would require convicted defendants to forfeit the proceeds of their criminal activity. It would also require some of the defendants, upon conviction, to forfeit numerous vehicles, including a Mercedes, a Porsche and a Bentley, as well as numerous pieces of real estate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Phelesa Guy, Northern District of Texas, is in charge of the prosecution.

Mexican Murder Suspect Deported by ICE

A 41-year-old Mexican national wanted for murder by authorities in Baja California was removed Wednesday, January 16, 2013, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers.

Saul Camargo-Avendano was transported from Salt Lake City by commercial airline under ICE escort to San Diego where he was turned over to Mexican officials at the San Ysidro border crossing. Camargo-Avendano was encountered in December at the Salt Lake County Jail by ICE officers assigned to ERO’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP) following his arrest by local police. He was transferred to ICE custody and a previous order of removal was reinstated Dec. 20 when the state charges were dismissed. In December 2011, Camargo-Avendano was removed twice in the same day after he attempted to illegally enter the U.S. at Calexico, Calif.

Records checks by ERO indicated Camargo-Avendano was a possible suspect in a homicide committed in Ensenada, Baja California. Los Angeles-based representatives from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office subsequently confirmed that a warrant for his arrest was issued last September. Camargo-Avendano and seven other suspects were charged by Mexican authorities with the February 2011 slaying of Ensenada councilman Arturo Castellanos-Ruiz. Mexican officials believe the killing was connected to a labor union dispute. Camaro-Avendano is the second suspect apprehended by Mexican authorities in connection with the case.

“ICE’s top immigration enforcement priority is to protect the community from individuals who may pose a threat to public safety, especially individuals who are using the U.S. as a haven from foreign prosecution,” said Thomas E. Feeley, acting field office director for ERO Salt Lake City. “Had it not been for ERO officers working cooperatively with local jail authorities to screen inmates for immigration violations, this dangerous murder suspect would have been set free.”

ERO’s Criminal Alien Program 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.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 500 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.