News and Press Releases

Twenty Defendants Charged in Separate Schemes to Defraud Immigration by Posing as Cuban Citizens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2013

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, Linda Swacina, District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Vernon Foret, Director Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Miami Field Office, and Wendy Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), announced the filing of federal charges against twenty defendants in twenty separate cases. The cases announced today highlight the federal commitment to crack down on immigration fraud and its perpetrators.

These indictments and informations are part of Operation Havana Gateway, a response to a rising trend of immigration fraud based upon false claims to Cuban birth and citizenship. Previous investigations and convictions stemming from Operation Havana Gateway have revealed that document vendors create and sell fraudulent and fictitious Cuban birth certificates for thousands of dollars to individuals in need of immigration benefits. Subsequently, those individuals submit fraudulent applications for immigration benefits based upon a fictitious claim of Cuban birth or citizenship supported by a phony Cuban birth certificate.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Fraud cannot be the foundation of one’s pursuit of the American dream. By committing immigration fraud, these defendants sought to cheat the immigration system and those who immigrate to this country lawfully. We will continue to pursue and punish those who unfairly and fraudulently cheat the immigration system.”

“These individuals came here seeking the freedom and benefits this country provides to Cuban nationals. The operation identified and addressed a vulnerability in the application process,” said Alysa Erichs, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in Miami. “These arrests by HSI should send a clear message that we will target anyone who tries to obtain immigration benefits fraudulently.”

“USCIS is committed to ensuring the integrity of our nation’s immigration system by ensuring that only fully qualified individuals receive benefits,” said Linda Swacina, District Director for Miami and the Caribbean. “We evaluate cases individually based on the law and the facts and will refer to USCIS’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) or other appropriate authorities any case suspected of fraud or unlawful conduct.”

“This integrated effort is an example of the successful partnership between federal agencies to detect and interrupt organizations that through fraudulent activity exploit the process to obtain immigration benefits,” said Vernon Foret, Director Field Operations Miami, Customs Border Protection.

“These charges send a strong message: Diplomatic Security and our law enforcement partners are committed to making sure those who commit document fraud face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Wendy Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, DSS. “Diplomatic Security’s strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”

The cases announced today include:

1. United States v. Miriam Licea, Case No. 13-20238-CR-Williams

Defendant Miriam Licea, 57, of Miami, was charged in a four-count indictment with assisting two people make fraudulent applications for immigration benefits based upon false claims of Cuban birth. This indictment is related to a prior case, United States v. Entrocassi, 12-20517-CR-SEITZ, indicted in 2012, in which a defendant proffered during a guilty plea that he had paid $15,000 for a fraudulent Cuban birth certificate. The indictment contains two counts of aiding and abetting two people to submit a fraudulent application for immigration benefits based upon a false claim of Cuban birth. The defendant was also charged with two counts of knowingly encouraging and inducing two aliens to reside in the United States illegally. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Watson.

2. United States v. Luis Enrique Legon Mena, Case. No. 13-60066-CR-Zloch

Defendant Luis Enrique Legon Mena, 44, of Miramar, was charged in a five-count indictment with conspiring to encourage aliens to reside in the United States illegally, and four counts of knowingly encouraging and inducing four total aliens to reside in the United States illegally. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita White.

3. United States v. Marcos Erwin Hes Villacis, Case No. 13-20198-CR-Cooke

Defendant Marcos Erwin Hes Villacis, 50, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence premised on the false claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Camacho.

4. United States v. Pablo Nunez, Case No. 13-20176-CR-Williams

Defendant Pablo Nunez, 42, of Miami Beach, was charged in a one-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he is Cuban. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Tim Cole.

5. United States v. Ana Arias, Case No. 13-20003-CR-Lenard

Defendant Ana Arias, 31, of Naples, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the fictitious claim that she is Cuban. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Cole.

6. United States v. Gerardo Mendez, Case No. 13-60065-CR-Dimitrouleas

Defendant Gerardo Mendez, 37, of Miami, was charged in a two count indictment with seeking to naturalize fraudulently based on the false premise that he was born in Cuba. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Rosen.

7. United States v. Maryori Velazquez-Guevara, Case No. 60064-CR-Cohn

Defendant Maryori Velazquez-Guevara, 44, of Davie, was charged in a two-count indictment with seeking to naturalize fraudulently based on the false premise that she was born in Cuba. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Rosen.

8. United States v. Jose Ramirez, Case No. 13-60063-CR-Scola

Defendant Jose Ramirez, 45, of Sunrise, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Rosen.

9. United States v. Eduardo Gomez, Case No. 13-20004-CR-Cooke

Defendant Eduardo Gomez, 37, of Miami Beach, was charged in a one-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he is Cuban. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Cole.

10. United States v. Roberto Guzman, Case No. 13-20224-CR-Ungaro

Defendant Roberto Guzman, 46, of Miami, was charged in a one-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the phony claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Camacho.

11. United States v. Carlos Zerpa Rodriguez, Case No. 13-20222-CR-Middlebrooks

Defendant Carlos Zerpa Rodriguez, 33, of North Miami, was charged in a two-count information with knowingly attempting to obtain citizenship unlawfully and submitting a fraudulent application for naturalization. The information alleges that the premise of the defendant’s fraudulent applications was the phony claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Camacho.

12. United States v. Ferdinando Enrique Bello, Case. No. 13-80075-CR-Rosenbaum

Defendant Ferdinando Enrique Bello, 52, of Jacksonville, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the phony claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Hui.

13. United States v. Santiago Ruben Gonzalez, Case No. 13-20193-CR-King

The defendant, Santiago Ruben Gonzalez, 45, of Jacksonville, was charged in a two-count indictment with attempting to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fraudulent claim that he is Cuban. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Hui.

14. United States v. Yohel Golsztayn, Case. No. 13-20221-CR-Williams

Defendant Yohel Golsztayn, 29, of Hollywood, is charged in a one-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence. The information alleges that the premise of his application was the false and fictitious claim that his mother was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita White.

15. United States v. Paola Lourdes Bre, Case No. 13-20225-CR-Altonaga

Defendant Paola Lourdes Bre, 37, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false and fictitious claim that she was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Camacho.

16. United States v. Sylvia Cruz Chicoma, Case No. 13-20223-CR-Zloch

Defendant Sylvia Cruz Chicoma, 56, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false and fictitious claim that she was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Camacho.

17. United States v. Maura Rosario Roca Hurtado, Case No. 13-20195-CR-Martinez

Defendant Maura Rosario Roca Hurtado, 46, of Naples, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence. The indictment alleges that the basis of her application was the false and fictitious claim that her mother was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Cole.

18. United States v. Alexandra Magdalena Canelon, Case No. 13-20196-CR-Rosenbaum

Defendant, Alexandra Magdalena Canelon, 31, of Doral, is charged in a four-count indictment with submitting fraudulent applications for legal permanent residence on two separate dates. The indictment alleges that, each time, she premised her application on the false claim that her mother was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Cole.

19. United States v. Pablo Muro, Case No. 13-20237-CR-Moreno

Defendant Pablo Muro, 46, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence premised on the false claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Watson.

20. United States v. Francisco Ramirez, Case No. 13-60081-CR-Scola

Defendant, Francisco Ramirez, 45, of Sunrise, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Rosen.

Defendants Gerardo Mendez, Maryori Velazquez-Guevara, Luis Enrique Legon Mena, Alexandra Magdalena Canelon, and Sylvia Cruz Chicoma are scheduled to make initial appearances in Fort Lauderdale before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer at 11:00 a.m. today. Defendants Marcos Erwin Hes Villacis, Pablo Nunez, Ana Arias, Jose Ramirez, Eduardo Gomez, Roberto Guzman, Miriam Licea, Carlos Eduardo Zerpa Rodriguez, Santiago Ruben Gonzalez, Yohel Golsztayn, Paola Lourdes Bre, Maura Rosario Roca Hurtado, Pablo Muro, and Francisco Ramirez are scheduled to make initial appearances in Miami today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres at 2:00 p.m.

An indictment or an information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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