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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2009 Press Release Index
    Release No. 09-049

    April 20, 2009

    CUBAN NATIONAL ACCUSED OF DEFRAUDING OTHER IMMIGRANTS BY POSING AS ATTORNEY AND CHARGING FEES AT THE SAME IMMIGRATION COURT WHERE HE HAD BEEN ORDERED DEPORTED

    A Cuban national who was ordered deported, but was released from custody because he could not be removed to Cuba, is expected to make his initial appearance in Los Angeles this afternoon on charges related to a scheme in which he allegedly assumed the identity of an attorney and charged aliens to represent them in the very immigration court where he had been ordered deported.

    Raul Ernest Alonso-Prieto, 60, was turned over to federal authorities in Fresno two weeks ago after he was indicted on March 19. The 22-count indictment charges Alonso-Prieto with five counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft, and eight counts of making false statements in immigration court filings he made on behalf of immigration victims while purporting to be a lawyer.

    Alonso-Prieto was housed at the San Pedro Processing Center (SPPC), a facility maintained by U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement to house immigrants who had been detained in immigration custody pending immigration deportation and removal proceedings. After being ordered removed to Cuba by an Immigration Judge, Alonso-Prieto was temporarily held at SPPC for several months because he could not be deported to Cuba due to the United States' lack of diplomatic relations with Cuba. He was released from SPPC pursuant to an Order of Supervision on December 22, 2006.

    The indictment alleges that after his release, Alonso-Prieto assumed the name “Kenneth Robert-Murphy Peterson,” a variation on the name of a real California attorney. Using this name and the name of a deceased Florida attorney, Charles Powell, Alonso-Prieto invented a fictional Christian charitable legal services organization that he called the Amicus Curaie Foundation. After Alonso-Prieto was released from the SPPC, he allegedly approached detainees, or the families of detainees, at the SPPC and, claiming to be “Kenneth Robert-Murphy Peterson” employed by the Amicus Curaie Foundation, and offered to represent them for fees as high as $2,500.

    Alonso-Prieto appeared in person and by telephone on numerous occasions before Immigration Judges at the SPPC, purporting to be attorney Kenneth Robert-Murphy Peterson, and purporting to represent various detained clients in deportation and removal proceedings, the indictment alleges. To facilitate the scheme, Alonso-Prieto allegedly maintained a bank account in the name of "Kenneth R. Murphy-Peterson," in which he deposited victim checks, cash, money orders and wire transfers.

    Alonso-Prieto was turned over to federal custody by the California Department of Corrections on April 2. After making an initial appearance in federal court in Fresno that day, Alonso-Prieto was transported to Los Angeles. He is expected to make his initial appearance in Los Angeles this afternoon in United States District Court. Alonso-Prieto had been serving a sentence related to his April 7, 2008 convictions for sending a threatening letter with intent to extort and unauthorized practice of law.

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

    If he is convicted of the 22 counts alleged in the indictment, Alonso-Prieto faces a statutory maximum sentence of 194 years in federal prison.

    This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which received the assistance of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Detention & Removal Operations. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Investigation, cooperated in the investigation.

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    Release No. 09-049
    Return to the 2009 Press Release Index