PENSACOLA RESTAURANT OWNER SENTENCED IN $2 MILLION FRAUD SCHEME
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Ismael B. Rodriguez, 45, the owner of Cazadores Mexican Restaurants, was sentenced today to 60 months’ imprisonment for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit that offense, announced United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, Northern District of Florida.
The defendant was convicted along with wife and co-defendant, Maria Rodriguez, 41, following a two-day jury trial in Pensacola last November. Evidence at trial established that defendants traveled to Mexico in 2008, where they faked the death of Ismael B. Rodriguez. Maria Rodriguez returned to the United States with a fraudulent Mexican death certificate in an attempt to obtain approximately $2 million in life insurance proceeds on her husband. In reality, Ismael B. Rodriguez was alive and was subsequently located by law enforcement in Alabama. Witnesses at trial included employees of the victim insurance company, the registrar of death certificates in Morelia, Mexico, and law enforcement agents. At trial, Maria Rodriguez testified that she believed that her husband had been kidnaped and murdered in Mexico. To refute this testimony, the government introduced Customs and Border Protection records showing that Mr. Rodriguez had crossed the United States-Mexico border during the time period in which his wife claimed he was dead.
Senior United States District Judge Roger Vinson also ordered Mr. Rodriguez to pay $4,645 in restitution and $1,200 in fines and court costs.
Maria Rodriguez will be sentenced in United States District Court in Pensacola on February 11, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Marsh praised the outstanding investigative teamwork of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Florida Department of Financial Services - Fraud Division, whose joint investigation led to the convictions in this case. “We are grateful for the tremendous efforts of the prosecution and investigation team, gathering irrefutable evidence and testimony, leading to this result in favor of justice. Such brazen criminal conduct intending to defraud financial institutions will not be tolerated.”
“The sentencing of this individual should be a warning about the serious consequences of committing financial fraud,” said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office that oversees Pensacola. “Together with our state, local and federal partners, ICE will continue to investigate these kinds of cases and ensure that the people who commit these crimes are held accountable for their actions.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg.