News and Press Releases

St. joseph brother, sister plead guilty to $5 million conspiracy to provide thousands of identity documents to illegal aliens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a St. Joseph, Mo., man and woman have pleaded guilty in federal court to their roles in a more than $5 million conspiracy that utilized the Missouri Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph to provide more than 3,500 fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens across the United States.

Jessica M. Gonzalez, 21, of St. Joseph, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, to the charge contained in a Jan. 10, 2012, federal indictment. Her brother, Stephen E. Vanvacter, 25, also of St. Joseph, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 31, 2012.

By pleading guilty, Gonzalez and Vanvacter admitted they participated in a conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, to unlawfully produce identification documents, to unlawfully transfer another person’s identification and to commit Social Security fraud.

During the conspiracy, thousands of illegal aliens traveled from across the United States to obtain either a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license at the St. Joseph license office by using unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. It is estimated that more than 3,500 licenses were issued to illegal aliens by the Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph. The state licenses could then be used by the illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the United States, to unlawfully obtain employment and for other unlawful purposes.

Their sisters and co-defendants, Sara M. Gonzalez, 21, and Christina Michelle Gonzalez, 24, both of St. Joseph, have pleaded guilty to the same charge.

All four co-defendants admitted they accompanied illegal aliens to the St. Joseph license office, under the guise of being translators, in order to assist them with obtaining a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license. Those licenses used the names of persons who were listed on unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. Other co-defendants sent the birth certificates and Social Security cards to their residences via express mail packages.

They instructed and assisted the illegal aliens to practice memorizing the information on the birth certificates and Social Security cards and to practice signing the name on those documents so that the signatures would be similar. They also assisted the illegal aliens to prepare for potential questions from the license office employees.

They also assisted the illegal aliens who did not live in Missouri by providing them with a Missouri residential address to use in order to obtain the Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license.

The illegal aliens were usually charged between $1,500 and $1,600 for the document sets and the Missouri driver’s and non-driver’s licenses. The defendants collected money from the illegal aliens, which they paid to their co-conspirators. It is estimated that more than $5,250,000 in gross proceeds was paid by illegal aliens to members of this conspiracy.

Under federal statutes, Jessica Gonzalez  and Vanvacter are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jess E. Michaelsen. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

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