FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
FIVE DEFENDANTS SENTENCED FOR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT VISA FRAUD
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Acting Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division and United States Attorney Michael Shelby of the Southern District of Texas announced today that five defendants were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Laredo, Texas, this morning for conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
The five, four former employees of the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and one former visa broker, appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison for sentencing stemming from their convictions for running a visa-selling scheme in Nuevo Laredo. The four Mexican nationals and one U.S. citizen were convicted after a seven-month investigation which ultimately resulted in the Jan. 29, 2003, closure of the U.S. Consulate office in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Miguel Partida, a former visa adjudicator at the Consulate, received a prison term of 18 months; Sergio Genaro Ochoa-Alarcon, a former visa clerk, received a prison term of 12 months and one day; Benjamin Antonio Ayala-Morales, a former visa clerk, received a prison term of eight months; and Ramon Alberto Torres-Galvan, also a former visa clerk, received a prison term of eight months. Margarita Martinez Ramirez, the visa broker, received three years probation.
The sentences are the culmination of an investigation initiated last year by federal agents into allegations that Consulate employees were involved in a scheme to provide visas and border crossing cards in exchange for money. The scheme involved persons buying visas without required interviews and without determinations that a person was qualified for a visa. The duties of the four former U.S. Consulate employees included interviewing applicants for U.S. visas, reviewing the applications, and approving non-immigrant visas for travel to the United States.
The investigation into visa fraud scheme was conducted by Special Agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, United States Department of State, and Special Agents of the newly created Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Trial Attorneys Peter Zeidenberg of the Public Integrity Section and Jim Oliver of the Domestic Security Section, and Assistant United States Attorney Dixie Morrow of the United States Attorney’s Laredo Division office.