News and Press Releases

Las Vegas Woman Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Impersonating Immigration Officer

June 28, 2002

Las Vegas, Nev. - Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada and William King, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Tucson Field Office of the Department of Justice - Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG), announced that NORMA BENAVIDEZ, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Kent J. Dawson to 18 months in federal prison for False Impersonation of an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Employee, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 912.

BENAVIDEZ was arrested in Las Vegas on September 24, 2001, and indicted by a federal grand jury on October 3, 2001 on charges of Mail Fraud, False Impersonation of a Federal Employee, and Aiding and Abetting. BENAVIDEZ entered into a plea agreement with the United States and pleaded guilty to Count Eight of the Indictment, charging False Impersonation of an INS employee.

According to the Plea Memorandum, between late 1999 and the time of BENAVIDEZ' arrest, BENAVIDEZ defrauded over one hundred aliens who requested her help with their immigration matters. BENAVIDEZ told the aliens that she was the executive assistant to the Chief of the INS in Las Vegas, when in actuality, BENAVIDEZ had never been employed by the INS. BENAVIDEZ told the aliens that for $500 to $1,000, she would help them obtain legal status in the United States. BENAVIDEZ required the individuals to provide her with documents to support their application for legal status, such as birth certificates and immigration documents. BENAVIDEZ never assisted the individuals in the immigration process, and in fact, used the fees for her personal benefit and retained the documents in her home. Most of the individuals recruited were illegal aliens, and others were resident aliens seeking to speed up the citizenship process.

BENAVIDEZ was also ordered to pay $17,965 in restitution. Fifty percent of any wages she earns in prison, and at least ten percent of any gross income she earns following her release from prison, must go toward the restitution obligation. The defendant was also ordered to serve a one-year period of supervised release, must submit to a substance abuse evaluation, and is not permitted to work in any job involving immigration or identity documents. BENAVIDEZ is not in custody, and will be permitted to self-surrender to a designated federal prison facility by August 12, 2002.

The case was investigated by DOJ-OIG agents and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sharon Lever.

Persons with knowledge of others engaged in similar schemes are urged to contact DOJ-OIG at (520) 670-5243, or the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department HART (Hispanic American Resource Team) program at (702) 229-1999.

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