U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Update March 4 – 11, 2010

Shootersonboat_lgRight Side News Reports from ICE on this week’s top stories..

March 4, 2010

12 illegal aliens arrested for document fraud in Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Twelve illegal aliens were arrested here today by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents and Bay County Sheriff’s deputies following a joint investigation into document fraud. The announcement was made by Thomas F. Kirwin, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Susan McCormick, ICE special agent in charge (SAC) of the ICE Office of Investigations which oversees Panama City and Frank McKeithen, Bay County sheriff. The arrests were made at a local business in Panama City. The defendants, 11 men and one woman, are from various countries including Panama and Mexico. They have been charged via criminal complaint for document fraud. Read More..

2 Central California men charged with producing fake identity documents

FRESNO, Calif. – Two Mexican nationals will be arraigned here Friday following their indictment by a federal grand jury on charges stemming from an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into allegations they produced and sold counterfeit identity documents. Oscar David Vasquez, 26, and Daniel Aquino-Perez, 22, are accused in a multi-count indictment of possessing, producing and selling counterfeit immigration and identity documents, including Social Security cards and alien registration receipt cards, commonly known as “green cards.” Read More..

Owner of Reno electronics firm faces federal charges for employing illegal aliens

RENO, Nev. – The owner of a Reno, Nev., electronics manufacturing company has been indicted by the federal grand jury on six counts of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States and aiding and abetting, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.  Hamid Ali Zaidi, 62, owner of Vital Systems Corporation, was indicted Wednesday. According to the indictment, between March 2005 and May 2009, Zaidi allegedly encouraged six illegal aliens to work at his company and therefore to reside in the United States, knowing that such residence was in violation of federal law. Read More..

Pendant engraved with image of Peter the Great returned to Russian authorities
Artifact reported stolen from Hermitage collection was offered for sale in Seattle

MOSCOW – A silver pendant with an engraved image of Peter the Great, who served as the Tsar of Russia from 1682 to 1725, was returned to Russian authorities March 4 during a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The pendant was among 1,200 historical items linked to Peter the Great that were given to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in August 1947. The family of Tsar Nicholas II, who served as Russia’s final emperor from 1894 to 1917, had donated the pendant. Read More..

March 5, 2010

Louisiana man indicted for crimes against children 

NEW ORLEANS – A 38-year-old Louisiana man was indicted here today by a federal grand jury on six counts of crimes against children, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Michael G. Meany was charged with aggravated sexual abuse, production of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors, coercion and enticement of a minor, transfer of obscene material to a minor and receipt of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. If convicted, Meany faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 30 years in prison and a possible maximum penalty of life in prison followed by up to a life term of supervised release, more than $1 million in fines and will be required to register as a sex offender. Read More..

Tampa Super Bowl t-shirt counterfeiter sentenced to 6 months in prison

TAMPA, Fla. — Willie Smith, 39, of Irmo, S.C., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., to six months in federal prison for selling counterfeit Super Bowl XLIII t-shirts, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  The court also ordered Smith to forfeit t-shirts and screen printing equipment and to refrain from engaging in any employment related to manufacture, production, or sales of t-shirts, hats, uniforms, or any clothing merchandise during his term of supervised release.  As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity. Read More..

Accused murderer of 17-year-old boy deported to Mexico

DALLAS – A man who was wanted in Mexico for allegedly killing a 17-year-old boy in 2005 was deported on Thursday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Juan Jose Lopez-Juarez, 36, a Mexican national, was turned over to Mexican authorities March 4 at the Laredo, Texas, port of entry. The Mexican Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) took custody of Lopez-Juarez, who was wanted for homicide in the State of Michoacán, Mexico. According to Mexican authorities, Lopez-Juarez is accused of pushing aside the boy’s mother who was standing in front of her son and pleading for his life. Lopez-Juarez then allegedly shot the boy in the face, which killed him.  “ICE works closely with our local, state, federal and international law enforcement partners to identify, locate and deport aliens who are wanted in their home countries for committing heinous crimes,” said Nuria T. Prendes, field office director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Dallas. “We will not allow criminal aliens to use the United States as a safe haven from their crimes.” Prendes oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the State of Oklahoma. Read More..

ICE detainee dies at Los Angeles-area hospital

LOS ANGELES – A 30-year-old Guatemalan national being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pending immigration removal proceedings died Friday morning at Kindred Rehabilitation Hospital (KRH) in Los Angeles following complications from a brain tumor.  Ernesto Gomez-Vasquez, an ICE detainee at the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, Calif., was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital Jan. 4, 2010, after complaining of a headache and dizziness. When extensive tests revealed Gomez had a large brain tumor, he was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery to remove portions of the tumor and relieve the pressure on his brain. On Jan. 6, a second emergency surgery was performed to insert an intracranial pressure monitor. On Feb, 26, Gomez was transferred to KRH.  Read More..

 3 Mexican nationals charged with running a counterfeit document mill

MILWAUKEE – Three illegal aliens from Mexico were charged in federal court this week for locally producing and selling fake identity documents. Two face additional charges of unlawfully possessing firearms as illegal aliens. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Julio Hernandez-Navarette, 34; Daniel Santiago-Garcia, 29; and Fany Santiago-Garcia, 26; all of West Allis, Wis., were charged in the Eastern District of Wisconsin for conspiring to manufacture and sell fraudulent immigration and identity documents. Fany Santiago-Garcia and her brother Daniel Santiago-Garcia, were also charged for unlawfully possessing firearms as illegal aliens, which is a felony.

According to court documents, ICE agents initiated the investigation in April 2009 after arresting an Italian national who admitted to purchasing fake identity documents. Further investigation revealed that Hernandez-Navarette and Fany Santiago-Garcia met prospective purchasers in public locations where they took their pictures and obtained biographical details. The defendants then returned to two adjoining West Allis residences that allegedly served as the “document mill.” ICE agents made under cover purchases of phony Social Security cards, Wisconsin driver’s licenses, and alien registration cards, or “green cards,” on three occasions in June and December 2009. Read More..

Jacksonville man sentenced to 4 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography

March 8, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Matthew Brewer, 30, of Jacksonville, was sentenced to four years in federal prison, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, for possessing child pornography, following a nationwide investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Jacksonville. Brewer was also ordered to register as a sex offender. He had pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2009. ICE special agents initiated the investigation after discovering a computer in New Jersey that was hosting a child pornography website. ICE special agents surreptitiously purchased access to this website, and later executed a series of search warrants in Virginia and Florida. The information obtained revealed that an individual named Matt Brewer in Jacksonville had purchased access to one of the illegal websites. Read More..

Orange County man charged with running sophisticated student visa fraud scheme
SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County man surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning after being charged with conspiracy for allegedly orchestrating a visa fraud scheme involving dozens of foreign students enrolled at institutions throughout Southern California, including several junior colleges and three California State University campuses.  Foreign students from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, and Qatar allegedly paid thousands of dollars to the defendant and his associates to take college classes, exams and placement tests on their behalf so they could maintain their lawful immigration status as foreign students. Eamonn Daniel Higgins, 46, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., appeared in U.S. District Court to answer to a criminal information accusing him of one count of conspiring to commit visa fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Higgins’ trial is slated to begin May 4.  Read More..

Los Angeles-area man sentenced to more than 18 years for soliciting murder of ICE informant 

LOS ANGELES – A Sherman Oaks, Calif., man was sentenced this morning to 217 months in federal prison Monday for his role in a bank fraud scheme and a related plot in which he attempted to hire a hit man to murder a witness who was prepared to testify against him in the fraud case.  Pavel Valkovich, 28, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who told the defendant: “You’re your own worst enemy.”  Valkovich pleaded guilty in December 2009 to one count of solicitation to commit murder, admitting that he offered to pay $10,000 to have a hit man kill an informant working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The informant provided ICE information which led to Valkovich pleading guilty earlier in 2009 to charges of bank fraud and identity theft. Valkovich admitted he wanted the hit man to use a silencer and kill the informant in a drive-by shooting. The charges are the result of an investigation by ICE, with substantial assistance provided by the United States Bureau of Prisons, Special Investigative Office.  Read More..

March 9, 2010

ICE arrests 5 for conspiring to bring 1,800 pounds of marijuana to Chicago

CHICAGO – Five men who allegedly conspired to locally distribute 1,800 pounds of marijuana were charged in federal court on Saturday following their arrests on Friday. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  José Mejia, 34; Jesus Vieyra, 46; and Daniel Villelda, 45; all of Brownsville, Texas; and Enrique Haro, 43; and Ismael Cornejo, 26; both of Chicago, were charged March 6 in the Northern District of Illinois for possessing 1,800 pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute.  According to court documents, in February Mejia allegedly contacted an ICE agent from McAllen, Texas, who was working in an undercover capacity. Mejia allegedly hired the undercover agent – who he believed to be a truck driver – to transport a large shipment of marijuana from Texas to Chicago.  Read More..

March 10, 2010

U.S. returns ancient sarcophagus to Egypt at National Geographic Society
3,000-year-old antiquity was found at Miami airport and traced to Spanish gallery 

WASHINGTON – In a ceremony at the National Geographic Society, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) returned an ancient sarcophagus to the Arab Republic of Egypt and its Embassy. The colorful artifact, devoid of its original contents, was detained by CBP during routine inspections of goods coming into the United States and turned over to ICE, which investigated its path through the international art world. The item was eventually seized for return to Egypt.  The National Geographic Society, which has a long partnership with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and its Secretary General Dr. Zahi Hawass, hosted the official repatriation of the item to Egypt by Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE John Morton and CPB Assistant Commissioner Allen Gina.  “There is nothing new about the theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts. Sadly, these practices that are older than this sarcophagus,” said ICE Assistant Secretary Morton. “But our 21st-Century global cooperation among law enforcement, museums, academics and organizations such as National Geographic Society, make it far more risky for those who would profit from selling stolen cultural property.” Read More..

Twice-deported Mexican national sentenced to almost 5 years for illegal reentry

PADUCAH, Ky. – A criminal alien, who had twice been previously deported to Mexico, was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday to almost five years in prison for illegally reentering the United States. This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Saul Gonzalez-Trujillo, aka Ricardo Gonzalez, 41, was sentenced March 10 in the Western District of Kentucky to 57 months in federal prison for illegally reentering the U.S. after being previously deported as an aggravated felon. He will be deported again to Mexico after he completes his prison sentence. Reentering the United States after being formally deported is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  On Nov. 24, Gonzalez-Trujillo pleaded guilty to illegally entering the U.S. in 2007 without obtaining the required permission from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to legally reenter the U.S.  Read More..

Indiana attorney arrested and charged with distributing child pornography 

INDIANAPOLIS – A local attorney accused of possessing and distributing child pornography was arrested and charged in federal court Tuesday. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Samuel Hasler, 50, of Anderson, Ind., was arrested March 9 and charged with two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.  According to the criminal complaint, Hasler allegedly distributed multiple images of child pornography via the Internet in December to a person in another state. On Feb. 14, Hasler sent additional images of child pornography from his computer to a police officer working in an undercover capacity.

On March 9, ICE agents executed a federal search warrant at Hasler’s law office in Anderson. During the search, agents recovered images and videos of child pornography contained on an external hard drive in Hasler’s law office. The complaint does not allege that Hasler produced the child pornography. Read More..

Martin County man indicted on federal child pornography charges

MIAMI – Brian James Keith, 36, of Martin County, Fla., was arraigned today on a March 4 indictment charging him with the transportation and receipt of child pornography, following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) investigation. Keith, who was ordered held with no bond, faces up to 20 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.  On Feb. 2, ICE special agents in Fort Pierce conducted an Internet investigation into the international trafficking of child pornography via Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks after ICE agents discovered that someone in Florida was sharing and sending images depicting minor children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. ICE agents determined that the subscriber to the suspect P2P networks was Keith.  ICE special agents notified the MCSO of the investigation and they initiated a parallel investigation and were also able to download child pornography from Keith’s Internet protocol (IP) address.  Read More..

ICE arrests Mafia soldier following joint international law enforcement operation 

NEW YORK – A Gambino soldier and two associates were arrested Wednesday in New York and North Carolina following a nine count indictment charging the three defendants variously with obstruction of justice, extortion and concealment of assets in bankruptcy.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, in a joint enforcement operation with the FBI, IRS and Italian authorities, arrested Gaetano Napoli, Sr., 71, Gaetano Napoli, Jr., 44, and Thomas Napoli, 31.  The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of New York Benton J. Campbell; ICE Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr.; Assistant Director in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations in New Yor Joseph M. Demarest Jr.; and Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS) Patricia J. Haynes. Read More..

 Panama City man arrested for child exploitation offenses

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -James Michael Beall, 30, of Panama City, was arrested today on a federal indictment charging him with distribution and possession of child pornography, and with enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography.  This case was investigated by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Panama City, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the Thornton Police Department.  “Through partnerships like the one we have with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, we will continue to vigorously investigate child exploitation cases,” said Susan McCormick, ICE special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations overseeing Panama City. Read More..

 

ICE closes case on missing sarcophagus

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Ancient coffin returned home to Egypt 

After years of being illegally trotted over the globe, a 3,000-year-old, ornately painted, hieroglyphics-inscribed sarcophagus is homeward bound to Egypt where the ancient relic can finally rest in peace.

Alert to red flags that signaled its illegal transport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the Miami International Airport intercepted the ancient coffin and immediately contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE Special Agent Vincent Menditto, who spearheaded the subsequent two-year investigation that began in October 2008, said one clue that the ancient sarcophagus was brought into the U.S. illegally was the way it was shipped-“in bubble wrap, blankets and Styrofoam peanuts.”

Read More..

Queens MS-13 gang leader sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and murder

NEW YORK – The leader of a Queens chapter of the international street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as “MS-13,” was sentenced March 10 to life imprisonment for racketeering conspiracy, including the acts of murder and attempted murder; murder in-aid-of-racketeering; and using a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.  A federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Amilcar Gomez, 26, on April 3, 2009, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with assistance from the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department, and the New York City Department of Probation.  The sentenced was announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr.

As established during the trial, Gomez was the leader of the Jamaica, N.Y., chapter of MS-13 and engaged in a series of violent crimes in Jamaica, including murder, attempted murder, and robbery. Gomez was convicted of the gang-related murder of Pedro Martinez on March 1, 2003, on 149th Street in Jamaica. The government’s evidence established that Gomez and two other MS-13 gang members stabbed Pedro Martinez to death, and that fellow MS-13 gang members stabbed and killed Martinez’s brother, Eduardo Leason, moments earlier.  Read More..

Co-conspirator in plot to kidnap 2 North Carolina kids pleads guilty

CHARLOTTE, NC – A Texas woman who helped write a ransom note threatening to kill two Cornelius, N.C., children pleaded guilty here this morning, following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).

Linda Gonzalez, 21, of Edinburg, Texas, faces a maximum term of up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, and a term of supervised release. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Edward R. Ryan of the Western District of North Carolina, Delbert Richburg, assistant special agent in charge over all ICE Offices of Investigations in North Carolina, and CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe.  According to court documents, from on or about July 2009 through September 2009, Gonzalez was the wife of Ruben Garcia-Rosario. Sometime in July 2009, Gonzalez was contacted by cell phone by Garcia-Rosario, who was living in Charlotte at the time. Garcia- Rosario requested Gonzalez’s assistance in writing a ransom note to be used in a scheme to kidnap two minor female victims who were then residents of Cornelius. Read More..

Lakeside man sentenced to 3 years for child porn

MORRIS, Conn. – Michael Anderson, 50, of the Lakeside section of Morris was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for possessing child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) and other federal and local officials. 

Anderson pleaded guilty to the offense on Oct. 6, 2009.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Anderson possessed images of child pornography while on board a vessel in Somerset, Mass., and at his residence in Connecticut.  On Aug. 15, 2006, ICE special agents and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) inspectors conducted a border search of a vessel on which Anderson was working and located and seized seven CDs and a laptop computer from Anderson. On Aug. 18, 2006, ICE special agents and members of the Connecticut State Police executed a federal search warrant at Anderson’s residence and seized, among other items, two desktop computers.  Read More..

March 11, 2010

100311washingtondc_lgFather and son plead guilty to selling counterfeit software worth $1 million 

WASHINGTON – A father and son have pleaded guilty to selling $1 million worth of counterfeit computer software through the Internet, in violation of criminal copyright infringement laws, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced March 12.

Robert D. Cook, 56, and his son, Todd A. Cook, 23, both of Wichita Falls, Texas, pleaded guilty March 11 to criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement before U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, in Alexandria, Va.

According to court documents, from July 2006 through May 2008, the Cooks operated several Web sites that sold large volumes of counterfeit software with a combined retail value of approximately $1 million. The defendants admitted that they used these Web sites to sell downloadable counterfeit software without authorization from the copyright owners. The defendants also admitted that they promoted their illicit scheme by purchasing advertising for their Web sites from major Internet search engines. Read More..

ICE conducts enforcement operation at 2 Maryland restaurants

BALTIMORE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Baltimore conducted enforcement operations at two Maryland restaurants, one office and several residences March 11 in an ongoing investigation.  “Today’s enforcement action is part of a multi-phased approach utilized by ICE to ensure that employers are held accountable for maintaining a legal workforce,” said ICE special agent in charge of Baltimore William Winter. “ICE is committed to investigating employers who engage in illegal employment schemes that utilize illegal labor to make an unlawful profit and give them an unfair advantage over businesses that operate lawfully.”  During this action, ICE agents administratively arrested 29 undocumented aliens for being unlawfully present in the United States. Read More..

 

 

 

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