Fairfield County Couple Charged With Smuggling Infant From Guatemala Into The United States
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that MARIA GONZALEZ, 42, of Stamford, and her husband, HENRY FERNANDO LOPEZ, 36, of Fairfield, have been charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiring to smuggle an infant from Guatemala into the United States. GONZALEZ, who is a citizen of Argentina and a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., is also charged with passport fraud offenses.
GONZALEZ appeared on April 16 before United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport and was released on a $100,000 bond. LOPEZ is currently being sought by law enforcement.
As alleged in the complaint, GONZALEZ traveled to Guatemala in March 2009 and met with a pregnant girl who was 14-years-old at that time. The birth mother agreed to give her child to GONZALEZ, and GONZALEZ agreed to pay for the birth mother’s delivery and some additional costs. The child was born on April 18, 2009, and the birth mother gave the child to GONZALEZ and LOPEZ.
The complaint further alleges that GONZALEZ visited the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City after the child’s birth and attempted to acquire travel documents for the infant, but was unsuccessful as she was not able to provide the necessary medical documents demonstrating that she was the mother of the infant. GONZALEZ subsequently made contact with an individual in Guatemala, provided him with the child’s photo and date of birth and, in exchange for $6,000, received a fraudulent U.S. passport in the child’s name.
GONZALEZ and the child, using the fraudulent passport, entered the U.S. at the Port of San Ysidro in California on July 14, 2009.
GONZALEZ and LOPEZ are charged with bringing into the U.S. and harboring an alien child, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and conspiring to do so, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. In addition, GONZALEZ is charged with misuse of a U.S. passport, and forgery or false use of a passport, offenses that carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.
The child has been in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families since October 2012.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Connecticut and its Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Krishna R. Patel.
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