Jose Luis Lopez-puerto Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on February 3, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, JOSE LUIS LOPEZ-PUERTO, a 25-year-old citizen of Honduras, pled guilty to illegal re-entry of a previously deported alien. Sentencing is set for March 13, 2009. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On January 15, 2009, LOPEZ-PUERTO was encountered at the Billings Greyhound Bus Station by a Border Patrol agent who had observed LOPEZ-PUERTO sitting in the bus station and had asked him in English where he was headed. LOPEZ-PUERTO did not speak any English. The agent then asked the same question in Spanish and LOPEZ-PUERTO replied that he was traveling to Seattle. The agent identified himself as an immigration officer and asked LOPEZ-PUERTO as to his citizenship, at which point LOPEZ-PUERTO ran out of the bus station and out of sight. The agent and several officers from other agencies looked for LOPEZ-PUERTO without success.
On January 16, 2009, the local mission contacted the U.S. Marshal's Service in Billings about an Hispanic male that could not speak or understand English. His description matched the one of the subject who had ran from the bus station. An agent responded to the mission and spoke with LOPEZ-PUERTO who stated he was from Honduras. When asked whether he had documentation to be in or remain in the United States, LOPEZ-PUERTO responded "no."
A review of immigration records and a fingerprint comparison revealed that LOPEZ-PUERTO had been previously removed from the United States on July 12, 2007, at Harlingen, Texas. LOPEZ-PUERTO admitted to being previously removed from the United States and stated that he had never applied to the Secretary of Homeland Security to reenter the United States.
A further review of the records confirmed that LOPEZ-PUERTO had never requested permission to apply for re-entry into the United States from the Attorney General of the United States, or his successor, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, after being removed.
LOPEZ-PUERTO faces possible penalties of 2 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia K. Hurd prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.