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 immigration

Man Arrested for Impersonating ICE Officer, Threatened and Defrauded Immigrants

A New Jersey man was arrested Oct. 12, 2012, on charges of falsely impersonating a federal officer in order to defraud aliens seeking immigration assistance. The arrest is the result of an investigation being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

Ruben Alvarado, 27, of Elizabeth, N.J., is charged with one count of impersonating a federal officer and one count of identification document fraud.

According to court documents, from September 2009 through May 2011, Alvarado pretended to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE and the Transportation Security Administration. Alvarado targeted victims, via Facebook and in person, who desired to obtain federal employment, legal status, or work or travel authorization in the United States.

Alvarado would provide his victims false approvals of their applications, often on forms inappropriate to the relief requested, that bore his signature as a purported officer of the United States. Alvarado would threaten victims who complained that the materials were not genuine by saying that his position at ICE vested him with the power to have them and their children deported. Alvarado took no action to further his victims’ legal or employment status, but demanded and obtained payments from his victims totaling more than $17,000.

If convicted of the impersonation charge, Alvarado faces three years in prison, and on the identification document fraud charge, 15 years in prison. Both also carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

Assisting OPR in the investigation was the DHS Office of Inspector General in Miami, Fla., and the Union County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office.

Indictment for 16 in Alien Smuggling Ring

Sixteen people were arrested Tuesday, October 16, 2012, on alien smuggling and/or drug smuggling charges. The arrests were announced by: U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Sean McElroy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Chief Charles McClelland, Houston Police Department (HPD).

The two-year investigation resulted in the return of two sealed indictments Sept. 20, which were unsealed following the execution of arrest warrants Oct. 16 and 17.

The first indictment outlines a long-term smuggling operation dating back to July 2011. According to the indictment, illegal aliens were smuggled across the United States-Mexico border and were either required to pay a fee or transport narcotics into the country to satisfy their smuggling debt. The indictment outlines how this group allegedly used conference calls during their smuggling venture as they tried to locate and avoid law enforcement.

Aliens and drugs were transported through the South Texas area into and throughout the United States, according to the charges. Those operating the smuggling ring were allegedly paid large sums of money for their involvement.

“Transnational criminal organizations account for a growing amount of crime in our communities and across the country,” said McElroy. “HSI is committed to working together with our local law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe.”

Following are those who were arrested Oct. 16: Eliazar Gonzales, 28, Jose Luis Fuentes, 30, Ruben Avila, 31, Daniel Avila, 29, Jose Antonio Lopez, 24, Jose Galvan Arranda, 50, Israel Alcaraz, 31, and Vinnie Chavez, 34, all of Houston; Noemi Rosales-Sanchez, 35, of Roma, Texas; Marino Garcia, 36, of Mexico; and Otoniel Dumari Hernandez-Rojas, 31, of El Salvador. They are expected to appear before Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy Oct. 17. Fidel Galarza Cardenas, 46, of Mexico, made his initial appearance Oct. 11 after being transferred from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If convicted of the marijuana conspiracy charge, the defendants face up to 40 years imprisonment and a $5 million fine; if convicted of alien smuggling, they face up to 10 years and $250,000 fine.

Four others were also arrested Wednesday, October 17, 2012, but charged in a separate case: Aldo Teyes-Sanchez, 29, Eulogio Alanis, 27, Antonio Rivas-Vargas, 29, all of Houston; and Saul Porros-Sanchez, 24, of Mexico, are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine. They face up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

Those taken into custody Wednesday, October 17, 2012, are expected to appear this week before Judge Milloy.

These charges resulted from an investigation by HSI and HPD, with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark E. Donnelly and Timothy S. Braley are prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Macedonian National Wanted for Armed Robbery is Deported

A Macedonian national wanted in his home country for a 2004 armed robbery and aggravated theft conviction was turned over the morning of Wednesday, October 10, 2012, to Macedonian law enforcement authorities. He was removed via commercial aircraft under escort by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Nedzad Zverotik, 38, entered the United States illegally in May 1996 and was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge in Feb. 1999. He complied with the order and departed the United States as instructed. In August 2011, he was arrested after attempting to illegally enter the U.S. from Canada and charged with improper entry by an alien. He was convicted of the charge in March 2012 and sentenced to time served before being turned over to ERO.

In July 2012, he was ordered removed to Macedonia by an immigration judge. While processing his removal, officers with ERO discovered Zverotik was the subject of an Interpol warrant for a 2004 aggravated theft and armed robbery conviction in his native Macedonia.

Zverotik was turned over to Macedonian law enforcement authorities in Skopje, Macedonia, Oct. 10 without incident.

“This removal is another example of the outstanding cooperation between the U.S. and our international law enforcement partners to ensure that fugitives around the world are brought to justice,” said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ERO Detroit. “ICE is using its unique immigration enforcement authorities to safeguard our communities from criminal aliens and others who pose a public safety threat, including suspects fleeing justice in their own countries. As these violent criminal fugitives are discovering, they can’t outrun the law.”

ERO 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. ERO 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.

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 ERO Announce New Deportation Initiative

 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Mexican Ministry of the Interior announced Tuesday, October 2, 2012, the beginning of the Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI), a new pilot to provide humane, safe and orderly repatriation of Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico and ultimately to their hometowns, instead of returning them to towns on the U.S.-Mexico border.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will provide air transportation via charter aircraft to Mexican nationals who emigrated from the interior of Mexico. Upon arrival in Mexico City, the Government of Mexico will provide them transportation to their places of origin. This initiative will allow the Government of Mexico to assist returning Mexican nationals in safely reintegrating into their communities.

“IRI reflects our commitment and ongoing bilateral effort with the government of Mexico to ensure strong, humane and effective enforcement of both nations’ immigration laws,” said ICE Director John Morton. “This initiative will better ensure that individuals repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe and controlled.”

Gustavo Mohar Betancourt, Undersecretary of Mexico’s population, migration and religious affairs said, “This initiative aims to collaborate and fully support border state authorities by reducing the number of Mexican nationals who are repatriated to the border region. The newly repatriated, often with no means to return home, are susceptible to becoming a part of criminal organizations as a means of survival.”

The IRI will include Mexican nationals pending removal from all areas of the United States. Historically, a significant number of individuals are not from the northern border towns to which they are repatriated, leaving them in communities where they have no ties or family support. Removing Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico is part of an effort to reduce repeat attempts to illegally enter the United States, avoid the loss of human life, and minimize the potential for exploitation of illegal migrants by human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as other criminal organizations.

Individuals who participate in the pilot initiative are transferred from across the United States to the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., before departure on an IRI flight.

The first repatriation flight of 131 Mexican nationals departed El Paso International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 2 and flights are scheduled to continue this year through to Nov. 29. Mexican nationals participating in IRI are removed on charter flights via the ICE ERO Air Operations (IAO) Unit. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., IAO has supported ERO since 2006 by providing air transportation and removal coordination services to ERO field offices nationwide. Staffed by ERO officers, these air charters enable the agency to repatriate large groups of deportees in an efficient, expeditious and humane manner.

9 Indicted for Alien Harboring and Immigration Fraud Conspiracy

Nine people from Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills community were indicted Thursday, September 27, 2012, by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to harbor aliens and harboring aliens. Four of the nine individuals are charged with an additional count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The indictments resulted from a criminal investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in partnership with the following agencies: U.S. Forest Service, Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, Custer County Police Department, U.S. Department of Labor and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

“Today’s law enforcement operation sends a strong message that HSI and our law enforcement partners are ever vigilant against those seeking to manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors,” said Michael Feinberg, special agent in charge of HSI St. Paul, which covers South Dakota. “The combined resources of a joint federal, state and local law enforcement operation present a formidable obstacle to any criminal enterprise seeking to harm hard-working citizens and American business interests.”

The following indictments have been handed down:

  • Angel Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of Munoz Logging and Construction Company, Rapid City, South Dakota– charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Barbara Munoz, owner and operator of Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Christina Pourier, bookkeeper of Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Mario Rangel, manager for Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Aurelio Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of the Black Hills Thinning Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Miguel Soto, foreman for the Black Hills Thinning Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Rogelio Escalante, owner and operator of the Escalante Logging Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Sergio Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of the SM Logging Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Benjamin Munoz-Botello, owner and operator of Benja’s Mexican Store, a grocery and licensed money-transmitting and check-cashing business – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.

Seven of those indicted were arrested Sept. 27.

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. This includes limiting the demand for undocumented workers by prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal workers,” said Johnson.

The alleged fraud is in connection with contracts entered into with the U.S. Forest Service. Conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both; three years’ supervised release (a violation of condition of release could result in two years’ additional incarceration on any such violation); a $100 assessment fee; and restitution.

Conspiracy to harbor aliens and harboring aliens is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both; three years’ supervised release (a violation of condition of release could result in two years’ additional incarceration on any such violation); a $100 assessment fee; and restitution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and all of the individuals named in the indictment are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty.

82 Freed from Horrific Alien Trafficking Stash House

An alleged hostage situation resulted in 82 individuals being freed, and four suspected human smugglers arrested, Wednesday, September 19, 2012, from a human smuggling stash house by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and officers from the Houston Police Department (HPD).

A call was received Tuesday, September 18, 2012, from the mother of a 16 year-old female being held hostage in the Houston area. HSI and HPD initiated the investigation, resulting in the rescue of the teenager on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, in a parking lot located near I-10 and Gessner St.

Based on information developed at the scene, HSI identified a stash house, operating out of a residence located on the 3400 block of Boxelder Dr. in west Houston, suspected of holding 70 individuals who allegedly been smuggled into the United States. Additional information indicated that the individuals inside were being held against their will by smugglers carrying firearms.

A total of 86 individuals were discovered at the residence from the following countries: Costa  Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Of the 86 individuals encountered, 62 were male, 15 were female, and nine were juveniles. Their ages range from 14 to 48 years-old and four individuals encountered at the house are suspected of being human smugglers from Mexico.

“During the course of these investigations illegal aliens smuggled into the United States can become kidnapping victims while awaiting the payoff of smuggling fees,” said Sean McElroy, deputy special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI is committed to using every available resource to identify, investigate and arrest those transnational criminal organizations involved in crimes related to hostage taking as well as human smuggling.”

All 82 freed from the stash house are currently in ICE custody and are undergoing administrative and medical processing. The investigation is ongoing.

30 Alien Smugglers Arrested by ICE in Southern Texas

A total of 28 individuals were arrested Tuesday, September 18, 2012, with 12 being federally charged with alien transportation and harboring, announced U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magdison, Southern District of Texas. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol.

In San Antonio, a nine-count federal grand jury indictment returned Sept.12 and unsealed Tuesday, September 18, 2012, charges the 12 in custody and eight other defendants with conspiring between September 2011 and August 2012 to transport and harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain. Other charges in the indictment include aiding and abetting the harboring of aliens; aiding or assisting an aggravated felon to enter the United States; transporting aliens for financial gain and placing in jeopardy the life of persons; and transporting aliens for financial gain.

“Today’s criminal charges are the result of the tireless efforts of HSI special agents, CBP Border Patrol partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and arrest those involved in the illicit and dangerous activity of human smuggling,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “The results today will have an impact on an organization that has endangered its human cargo and has shown very little restraint as to what extremes they will go to make a profit. HSI strongly discourages and warns people from becoming a victim and attempting to illegally enter the United States. Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip.”

“Cooperation and coordination among all law enforcement agencies is key to disrupting transnational criminal organizations and keeping our border communities safe. Today is a perfect example of what unity of effort and a whole-of-government approach means in combatting transnational criminal organizations and ultimately keeping the American public safe. Customs and Border Protection in South Texas continues to strengthen partnerships, conduct joint operations and share information with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” stated CBP South Texas Commander Robert L. Harris.

According to court documents, authorities allege that the defendants, with reckless disregard for human life, used stolen vehicles to transport more than 100 undocumented aliens from Laredo to staging areas in San Antonio.

The following individuals were arrested in San Antonio Tuesday, September 18, 2012: April Gaitan, 26; Armando Gaitan, 29; Sonia Campos-Delgado, 34; and Florencio Vaquez, 25. The following two defendants were arrested in Del Valle, Texas, outside of Austin: Carlos Rocha Leos, 35, and Sergio Israel Leos, 19.

Arrested in Laredo were Ivan Martinez and Elvia Vasquez-Morales, 38. The following four additional defendants were already in custody on other charges: Everlin Moreno-Mejia, 22; Luis Aguirre-Guerrero, 25; and Juan Manuel Vasquez-Laris, 26.

Eight defendants in this indictment remain fugitives, including ringleader Fernando Martinez-Magana, 40, aka “Dieciseis” aka “Zeta 16” aka “Don Fernando,” of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

A separate, but related, indictment was also returned in the Laredo Division of the Southern District of Texas Sept. 11, which alleges that between June 30 and Dec. 31, 2011, several individuals conspired to transport and move illegal aliens who had come to, entered and remained in the United States. The sealed indictment was partially unsealed today following the arrests of 16 charged in the case. The indictment remains sealed for those not yet in custody.

Upon conviction of the conspiracy charge, the defendants face up to 20 years imprisonment. The remaining charges call for either 20-year or 10-year maximum terms of imprisonment upon conviction.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Criminal Alien Arrested for Sex Trafficking

A Maryland man was arrested late September 5, 2012, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents on federal charges of transporting a teen girl as part of his prostitution business.

Julio Cesar Revolorio Ramos, 28, of Adelphi, Md., a native of Guatemala illegally present in the United States, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, if convicted.

“Sex trafficking of a minor is a particularly heinous crime,” said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. “HSI is fully committed to working with our law enforcement partners, both locally and internationally, to combat the crime of human trafficking.”

According to court documents, Ramos allegedly operated a prostitution service that transported women from Maryland to engage in commercial sex with clients in northern Virginia. Starting in January 2009 – when the victim was 15 years old – Ramos allegedly prostituted the teen girl from Maryland, and he continued to prostitute her at various times over the next year and a half. Court records allege that the victim was recruited by Ramos’s girlfriend and that the victim lived with them at a residence in Hyattsville, Md.

“We have zero-tolerance for those who exploit vulnerable teen girls for profit,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Juvenile prostitution is an unconscionable crime, and we’re determined to put these prostitution rings out of business in northern Virginia.”

“Juvenile sex traffickers represent the worst kind of predators – those who go after children,” said Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, II. “My office remains committed to protecting Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens from these predators. It is my hope that this arrest will put us one step closer to eradicating human trafficking in Virginia, which is why this task force was put together.”

This case was investigated by HSI with assistance from the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Virginia Assistant Attorney General and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Birnbaum and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Frank are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.

Criminal Alien and Child Predator Sentenced for Illegal Reentry

A citizen and national of El Salvador and a member of the MS-13 street gang who was previously convicted of sexually assaulting a child in Fairfax County, Va., was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison Friday, August 31, 2012, for illegally reentering the United States after having been previously deported.

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

According to court documents, Salvador Portillo, 30, illegally entered the United States and was removed by ICE Oct. 8, 2003. Thereafter, Portillo again illegally reentered the United States.

On Dec. 26, 2010, he sexually assaulted an 8-year-old girl in Fairfax County, Va. He was subsequently convicted of rape and sodomy in Fairfax County Circuit Court and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The 12 month sentence for illegal re-entry will follow the completion of the sentence term imposed by Fairfax County.

Portillo pleaded guilty to illegal re-entry July 23.

Former CBP Agents Convicted for Extensive Alien Smuggling Ring

Two former San Diego-area U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol agents face up to 50 years in prison following their conviction Friday, August 10, 2012, for operating a lucrative human smuggling ring that brought hundreds of Mexicans and Brazilians illegally into the United States using official agency vehicles.

Raul Villarreal, 42, and his brother, Fidel Villarreal, 44, both of San Diego, and a co-defendant, Armando Garcia, 44, of Tijuana, Mexico, who acted as a foot guide for the ring, were found guilty by a jury on multiple felony counts of conspiracy to smuggle aliens, money laundering and receiving bribes. The defendants will be sentenced in November by U.S. District Court Judge John Houston. In addition to prison time, the defendants could be required to pay more than $1.25 million in fines.

A fourth co-defendant, Claudia Gonzalez, of Tijuana, pleaded guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy to smuggle aliens for financial gain, bribery and money laundering. Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

The verdicts of August 10, 2012, are the latest developments in a probe by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), aided by ICE Homeland Security Investigations, that began after the agency received a tip in 2005 involving allegations of public corruption tied to an alien smuggling ring.

“Raul and Fidel Villarreal committed an egregious breach of the deep trust placed in DHS employees by the American people they swore to protect and serve,” said Joe Jeronimo, special agent in charge for OPR Western Region. “While their actions are atypical of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of DHS employees, this verdict should nonetheless send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate the law. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate such allegations and seek to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”

All four defendants were arrested in Tijuana in October 2008 on arrest warrants obtained by ICE. The defendants were then extradited in March 2009 to the United States to face the federal charges.

According to court documents, ICE special agents conducted extensive surveillance of the defendants’ smuggling operations, using surveillance aircraft, GPS devices and video cameras mounted on poles along the California-Mexico border. The video showed Fidel Villarreal picking up groups of illegal aliens with his official Border Patrol vehicle and transporting them to designated staging locations to await their transportation into the interior.