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

Tag Archives: illegal alien

HSI Busts Alien Smuggling Ring

Three Mexican men face federal charges following their arrest Friday, December 7, 2012, at a West Valley drop house discovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Francisco Javier Astorga-Velarde, 22, Jose Pedro Soto-Valdez, 32, and Noel Galdinez-Marmolejo, 32, appeared in federal court Monday, December 10, 2012, where they were charged in a federal complaint with conspiring to harbor illegal aliens.

HSI special agents were first alerted to the drop house Dec. 5 after a woman contacted HSI Atlanta to report that a man was demanding she pay him $4,000 or he would kill her niece, who was allegedly being held hostage in a drop house in Phoenix. HSI Atlanta alerted HSI Phoenix special agents, who worked around the clock to develop information on the possible location of the drop house. By the morning of Friday, December 7, 2012, special agents had sufficient reason to believe the woman was being held in a residence on West Highland Avenue.

When special agents and officers from the Phoenix Police Department responded to the house, they observed the defendants fleeing out the back door. The defendants ran back inside after seeing police. Special agents approached the back door and called to the occupants of the house to come outside. The defendants complied and were taken into custody. Fearing for the safety of the people inside, special agents entered the home and discovered 14 smuggled aliens, including the niece of the woman who alerted authorities. Special agents subsequently obtained a federal search warrant for the residence and discovered two 9 mm handguns inside.

According to the criminal complaint, Astorga-Velarde served as the “boss” of the house. He allegedly hit two male victims in the face with a gun and called the wife of one of the men, threating to kill her husband if she did not pay his smuggling fee. Astorga-Velarde is also accused of threatening a female alien with sexual assault and claiming he would cut her into pieces and throw her in the trash. The complaint alleges Galdinez-Marmolejo used a gun to hit one of the male victims on the head, face, hands and feet. Soto-Valdez allegedly beat the male victim with the guns and threatened to sexually assault, cut, kill or sell the female aliens in the house if their smuggling fees were not paid.

The investigation is ongoing and the defendants may face additional charges. The case is bei ng prosecuted by Lisa Jennis Settel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona.

A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Since January, HSI has encountered 35 drop houses containing 436 illegal aliens in the metropolitan Phoenix area.

ICE Target Operation Arrests 37 Criminal Alien Sex Offenders

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 37 foreign nationals with prior convictions for sex offenses during a three-day operation targeting criminal alien sex offenders in the Los Angeles area.

During the enforcement effort, which concluded late Friday, December 7, 2012, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers assigned to the agency’s Fugitive Operations Teams sought to locate and take custody of deportable alien sex offenders in four Southland counties –Los Angeles (16), Orange (4), Ventura (11) and San Bernardino(6). While the majority of those arrested were Mexican citizens (25), the group included nationals of eight other countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, Vietnam, Armenia,  Trinidad, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

Among those detained during the operation was a citizen of Trinidad and registered sex offender whose prior convictions include sexual battery, battery on a peace officer and annoying or molesting a child under 18. The 56-year-old, who was arrested in Los Angeles Thursday, December 6, 2012, is being held by ICE without bond pending removal from the United States.

Also taken into custody during the operation was a registered sex offender from Mexico who had prior convictions for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, drug trafficking, firearms violations and attempted grand theft. The 40-year-old was taken into custody Thursday, December 6, 2012, in Palmdale. He is being held without bond pending removal from the United States.

The arrests were coordinated with ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives – aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by federal immigration courts. ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.

“This operation was designed to target and arrest criminal aliens who have been convicted of sex crimes,” said Timothy Robbins, field office director for ERO Los Angeles. “We will all be able to rest easier knowing that these dangerous criminals are off our streets and will soon be out of the United States.”

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.

Mexican Nationals Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking, Hostage Taking, and Alien Harboring

Two Mexican nationals pleaded guilty Thursday, November 29, 2012, to their roles in an ongoing conspiracy to hold hostage and harbor smuggled aliens for ransom payments, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in Houston, Washington, D.C., and Virginia; and Prince William County, Va., and Houston Police Departments.

Virgilio De la Torre-Santana, 27, and Aduato Aguilar-Lara, 34, pleaded guilty Nov. 29 before U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller. De La Torre-Santana pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage taking; Aguilar-Lara pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.

On or about Aug. 17, family members and friends of two aliens who had been smuggled into the United States contacted local law enforcement in Prince William County, Va., to report receiving extortion calls demanding money for the aliens’ release. Family members wired money, which was received and picked up at various locations in Harris County, Texas. The two aliens were subsequently released and transported to Virginia.

After arriving in Virginia, the aliens contacted law enforcement to report being held hostage against their will at a location that was later identified as a residence located on Amblewood Drive in Houston. A few weeks later, special agents executed a search warrant at that location and encountered 26 illegal aliens, at least two of whom were juveniles held hostage inside the residence. Special agents also encountered and arrested De La Torre-Santana, Aguilar-Lara and a third defendant, Job Solis-Benito, 23, also a Mexican national.

According to the aliens, upon arrival in Houston, they were forced to undress and were informed they had been “sold” and would not be released until family members made payments to the men holding them hostage. While held hostage at the residence, victims reported they were held in their underwear, in locked rooms with boarded up windows and in deplorable conditions. The victims also indicated they were guarded by men constantly armed with a handgun. Victims reported they were not allowed to leave the residence until payment was sent for their release. Some victims said they were threatened with harm or death if payment was not received.

At the hearing on Thursday, November 29, 2012, De La Torre-Santana admitted he participated in the conspiracy to hold smuggled aliens hostage by making phone calls to relatives and friends of smuggled aliens, instructing them to send money via Western Union and/or Money Gram in exchange for the safe release of the aliens. He further admitted he recruited and paid other unindicted conspirators to pick up the money transfers at various locations within Harris County on his behalf.

Aguilar-Lara admitted to conspiring to harbor and conceal smuggled aliens inside the residence by providing the aliens with food, and by acting as a guard to ensure the aliens did not leave the residence until full payment for their release was received.

Sentencing for both De La Torre-Santana and Aguilar-Lara is scheduled for May 10. De La Torre-Santana faces up to life in prison; Aguilar-Lara faces up to 10 years imprisonment. Both also face a possible $250,000 fine.

The case against Solis-Benito is pending. He is charged with conspiring to commit hostage taking, hostage taking, conspiring to harbor illegal aliens, and harboring illegal aliens.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey N. MacDonald, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

Polish National Wanted for Reckless Homicide is Deported by ICE

A Polish national – who is wanted in his home country for killing a pedestrian by driving recklessly – was deported and turned over to Polish law enforcement officials Tuesday, November 27, 2012, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

 Bartosz Sikorski, 32, departed Monday from Chicago via commercial flight and arrived in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 27.

 The Bialystok Criminal Court in Poland issued an arrest warrant for Sikorski Oct. 9, 2002 on charges of reckless homicide. He is wanted in connection with a traffic fatality June 8, 2002 that killed a pedestrian. Sikorski was allegedly driving recklessly disregarding the speed limit when he hit a woman who later died at the hospital.

 Two months later, Sikorski fled to the United States in August 2002, entering on a visitor’s visa. He remained in the United States illegally after his visa expired in June 2003.

 In March 2007, Sikorski was convicted in Cook County for felony theft by deception. He was encountered by ICE officers at Cook County Jail in November 2009 and placed into removal proceedings.

 On March 24, 2010 a federal immigration judge in Chicago ordered Sikorski to depart the United States voluntarily and gave him until April 22, 2010 to comply. He became an immigration fugitive when he failed to comply with the immigration judge’s order.

 ICE’s Fugitive Operations Team officers arrested Sikorski April 26, 2012 and took him into custody pending removal to Poland. ICE officers turned him over to Harwood Heights, Ill., police after their records checks revealed an outstanding criminal warrant for Sikorski in Harwood Heights. He was convicted May 24 of illegally using an account number, which is a felony. On June 5, Sikorski was released from the Cook County Jail.

 In August, ICE received information from the FBI that Sikorski was wanted on an active arrest warrant in Poland. On Oct. 4, ICE officers and FBI agents took Sikorski into custody outside the Cook County Jail where he had been detained on local charges and released.

 Sikorski has remained in ICE custody since Oct. 4 until he was turned over to Polish authorities Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

“This man allegedly killed an innocent pedestrian in Poland and then fled to the United States to avoid facing justice for that crime,” said Ricardo Wong, ERO Chicago field office director. “We will continue to tirelessly pursue criminal fugitives who seek safe haven in this country.”

 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.

ICE and PRPD Target Operation Arrests 13 for Identity Theft and Document Fraud in Puerto Rico

Thirteen individuals indicted for document fraud and identity theft related charges were arrested Friday, November 16, 2012, in the municipalities of Bayamon, San Juan, and Carolina, Puerto Rico. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, worked jointly with the Internal Revenue Service, Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) and San Juan Police Department (SJPD) officers in an operation dubbed Game Over.

“Document and identity fraud pose a severe threat to national security and public safety because they create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in theUnited States,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI has partnered with federal, state and local counterparts to create the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a series of multi-agency teams developed to target criminal organizations and beneficiaries behind these fraudulent schemes.”

The case involves a scheme to defraud the United States by fraudulently obtaining and converting to cash U.S. Treasury checks issued in connection with fraudulent tax returns filed with the agency. As part of the scheme, tax returns were filed using the personal identifying information of individuals, when in reality, said individuals never filed such tax returns with the IRS. The investigation has revealed that the fraudulent tax returns were filed without the consent of the taxpayers who appear in the returns.

The investigation also uncovered a scheme used by some of the defendants to obtain legitimate, counterfeit or altered Puerto Rico birth certificates, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses to facilitate the movement of illegal aliens already in Puerto Rico to the continental United States.

Those arrested are:

  • Alexander Compres-Rubio
  • Raquel Custodio
  • Jose M. Vega-Rivera
  • Fernando Rosa
  • Nidia Muñoz
  • Eduvigis Rodriguez
  • Salustiano Olivo
  • Damaris Hernandez
  • Jose Javier Serrano
  • Wander Carrasco
  • Mercedes de la Cruz
  • Norwin Santana
  • Julio Peralta

ICE encourages the public to report document and benefit fraud and related information by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

Texas Man Sentenced for Alien Smuggling and Death of Smuggled Immigrant

A Houston man was sentenced Wednesday, November 14, 2012, to 6 ½ years in federal prison following his conviction on conspiracy to transport 14 illegal aliens within the United States and causing serious bodily injury, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol.

Leonel Alvaro Abundis-Carreon, 22, pleaded guilty Aug. 6 before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez-Ramos, who sentenced him to a term of 78 months in federal prison, which is to be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Ramos also ordered Abundis-Carreon to pay restitution in the amount of $7,300 to the victim’s family, $71,423.81 to Christus Spohn Kleberg, $257,638.05 to Christus Spohn Memorial and $34,689.01 to Christus Spohn Hospital in medical costs. In his guilty plea, he admitted he was driving a truck loaded with several illegal aliens, one of whom was killed.

The court learned that on Feb. 9, at about 6:10 a.m., Falfurrias Border Patrol agents were advised to be on the lookout for a white Ford F 250 pickup truck that was possibly involved in alien smuggling. Moments later, agents witnessed a white Chevrolet pickup truck traveling north on Farm to Market Road (FM) 1538 in Brooks County,Texas.

Several people were observed in the cab with several more ducking down in the bed of the truck. When agents began to follow the truck, it sped off at a high rate of speed. Border Patrol agents activated their emergency lights and siren, but the truck continued to travel north on FM 1538 until it merged onto County Road (CR) 417. The driver then turned off the headlights and drove straight through a fence and into a privately owned ranch. Agents followed the truck’s dust cloud and located it facing south on the opposite side of the fence line.

When agents exited their vehicle, they saw several injured individuals lying on the ground near the truck. A deceased person was pinned under the truck’s front tire and another was pinned under the rear axle of the truck, who appeared to still be breathing but unresponsive. At the scene, agents located seven individuals, three of whom were airlifted to the hospital. Near the crash site, Border Patrol agents located seven more individuals involved in the crash.

Abundis-Carreon admitted to HSI special agents that he was the driver of the truck and was being paid $125 for each alien he smuggled. One of the aliens suffered a broken pelvis which is expected to prevent him from walking for at least six months. The person found under the rear axle suffered third-degree burns on his legs. A third alien suffered an injury to his eye that required surgery.

Abundis-Carreon will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo R. Martinez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

Construction Business, Owner Plead Guilty to Harboring and Employing Illegal Aliens, Money Laundering

A Louisiana construction business and its owner pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday, November 8, 2012, to charges of conspiring to hide more than $280,000 gained by harboring and employing illegal aliens at multiple company work sites. The guilty plea follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Ramon Santos, 43, of Kenner, La., owner of Rendon Construction LLC, and the company itself each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Santos faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Rendon Construction LLC faces five years probation and a $500,000 fine.

According to court documents, Rendon Construction and Santos knowingly employed illegal alien workers and encouraged existing workers to recruit other illegal aliens by word of mouth. The company then paid workers in cash by funneling money through a shell company to conceal the nature of these cash payments between April and July 2011.

“Companies that violate federal law by paying workers illegally ‘under the table’ seek to gain an unfair advantage over legitimate businesses that play by the rules,” said Raymond R. Parmer, special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. “This practice denies job opportunities to law-abiding citizens and deprives federal, state and local governments the tax revenue needed to provide the essential services we all rely upon.”

Financial records show Santos authorized twelve checks from a Rendon Construction account made payable to Diablo Construction, which was a shell corporation without any assets or employees. Santos then cashed the checks through a check-cashing service and used the proceeds to pay his illegal alien workers at company job sites.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 15 in U.S. District Court. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Louisiana State Police and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office assisted with the investigation.

Canadian Helicopter Pilot Sentenced for Drug Smuggling Operation

One of the Canadian masterminds behind a massive northern border drug smuggling operation was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Wednesday, November 7, 2012, for conspiracy to import marijuana.

Henry Rosenau, 61, of Armstrong, British Columbia, was indicted in 2006 following a cross-border investigation dubbed “Operation Frozen Timber” led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Rosenau’s sentence comes following his July guilty plea, which pre-empted a re-trial and ended a protracted legal battle to derail the U.S. prosecution that included extradition challenges and frivolous lawsuits against witnesses, prosecutors and law enforcement.

“Operation Frozen Timber” led authorities to the Okanogan National Forest where undercover HSI special agents observed Rosenau and his co-conspirators smuggling B.C. Bud marijuana into the United States and cocaine into Canada using helicopters. The first of its kind investigation led HSI to develop new techniques to detect and suppress this type of border smuggling.

“The remote forest areas that concealed Rosenau’s and his co-conspirators’ smuggling operation also provided law enforcement with the perfect platform to observe their criminal activity,” said Brad Bench special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “Rosenau was the air courier service to several transnational criminal organizations. While he was busy turning drug smuggling by helicopter into a growth industry, HSI and its border enforcement partners were building the case that dismantled his criminal enterprise and brought him to justice.”

In his plea agreement, Rosenau admitted that, between 2000 and 2005, he flew dozens of loads of marijuana into forested areas in western and eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana. He also smuggled Canadians across the border into the U.S. to work as drug mules to transport their illicit cargo across the United States. Investigators say he ran his smuggling operation from his home-based heliport, landing as many as five helicopters in the front yard of his remote property in British Columbia.

Rosenau was first contacted by Canadian law enforcement in 2005 as he returned to Canada after delivering a load. In the helicopter’s cockpit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found a loaded handgun, night vision goggles, two satellite telephones and a GPS device that contained known landing sites used by marijuana traffickers.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of more than 15 years. They portrayed Rosenau as a shrewd man who flouted the law and gamed the system for his personal benefit saying: “[Rosenau] skirts the law when he believes doing so will benefit him, who prevaricates when asked what he did and why, and who believes dealing with governments (from pilot and aircraft regulations to police investigations to court matters) is some sort of a game. […] With some shrewdness, the defendant dealt well in the world of drug smugglers. He flew for some of the bigger and well-known drug traffickers…”

More than 40 defendants were indicted in connection with Operation Frozen Timber. During the course of the operation, U.S. and Canadian enforcement teams intercepted more than 17 drug loads, including more than 5,000 pounds of B.C. Bud and one shipment in February 2005 involving five suitcases packed with 169 kilograms of cocaine.

Operation Frozen Timber was conducted under the auspices of the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), a multi-agency law enforcement team comprised of representatives from Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies. Members of the IBET work together with local, state and provincial enforcement agencies to target cross-border criminal activity, including investigations involving national security and organized crime. Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case.

Mexican National Sentenced for Drug Trafficking and Bond Jumping

A Mexican national was sentenced Monday, November 5, 2012, to six years and three months in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, and for bond jumping (failure to appear as required), announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

Juan Ramon Garza, a 40-year-old resident alien of Brownsville appeared before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen who sentenced him Nov. 5 to 63 months in federal prison for the drug conviction, and 60 months for bond jumping. Judge Hanen also ordered that 12 months of the 60-month term be served consecutively to the 63-month sentence. The judge’s orders dictate that Garza must serve 75 months in federal prison.

According to court documents, Garza pleaded guilty June 26 to the drug charges. The government’s evidence indicated that on Oct. 22, 2009, special agents assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) conducted surveillance at a residence on the 400 block of Naranjal in Brownsville. The special agents received consent to search the residence. During their search, they discovered large black trash bags that contained bundles of marijuana totaling 125.25 kilograms (276 pounds). When Garza returned home, he admitted he was to be paid money for storing the marijuana in the garage.

On Nov. 4, 2009, Garza was released on a $100,000 bond with a $3,000 deposit. However, on Jan. 5, 2010, Garza failed to appear for court and a warrant was issued. He remained a fugitive until he was arrested by the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) April 3, 2012.

This case was investigated by officers with HIDTA, HSI and USMS.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elena Llanos-Salinas, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

Jamaican National Sentenced for Illegal Re-entry

A previously deported immigrant from Jamaica was sentenced Friday, November 2, 2012, for illegally re-entering the United States without permission, after having been convicted of an aggravated felony.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Andrew Anthony Maylor, who was deported in 2008 after being released from prison from a 1993 conviction for federal drug conspiracy charges, was sentenced to 57 months of federal incarceration for illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously removed, and for 37 additional months for violation of his prior term of supervised release, for a total of 94 months.

“Mr. Maylor’s blatant disregard for the criminal and immigration laws of the United States have been judged today. When aggravated felons re-enter the United States, we will continue to focus our resources on smart, effective enforcement that targets these individuals and work with our partners to aggressively prosecute them,” said M. Yvonne Evans, field office director for ERO Washington, D.C. “We continue to strive to improve the quality of life for our communities through these efforts.”

“Mr. Maylor committed a serious felony in the early 1990’s and was justly punished for that crime and deported,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “He committed another crime when he re-entered the United States without authorization. We will do all we can to enforce federal immigration laws, which help keep criminals like Mr. Maylor out of this country.”

According to court documents, Mr. Maylor admitted to re-entering the United States, without permission, on Feb. 4, 2011. He admitted that he came into Miamiby boat without inspection and that he never applied for re-entry to the Attorney General of the United States or the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright prosecuted the case for the United States.