U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
June 23 , 2010
R.I. MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO DEFRAUDING IMMIGRANTS AS BOGUS FEDERAL AGENT AND ATTORNEY
Providence, R.I. – A Pawtucket man pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to defrauding immigrants by posing as an immigration attorney; and claiming he was a federal immigration agent, threatening to have individuals deported. Audeliz Villegas, 45, who was also known by several aliases, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of impersonating a federal agent.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, which was entered before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “This case should send a clear message: that those who take advantage of persons unfamiliar with the intricacies of immigration law, and in particular cloak themselves in false claims of authority, will be held accountable for their actions and will be prosecuted.”
"ICE will use every investigative tool at its disposal to bring anyone posing as an ICE agent or immigration officer to justice for their crimes," said Matthew J. Etre, acting special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in Boston.
At Tuesday’s change of plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Rogers told the court, had the case gone to trial, the government's evidence would have established that from November 2009 through December 2009, Villegas devised a scheme to defraud individuals seeking legal services by claiming he was an attorney licensed to practice in New York.
Throughout the scheme, in addition to showing victims documentation purporting to be connected to his law practice, Villegas showed the victims forged documents purporting to be documents filed in federal court, with forged signatures of a purported magistrate judge. These documents purported to grant relief to the victims.
In addition to the false promises and statements made to his victims, Villegas defrauded his victims out of a total $8,290. When his victims confronted him, he responded by sending a text message in which he claimed to be an immigration agent and that they had committed a federal offense and would be arrested. When one of the victims followed up with a telephone call to Villegas, he had placed a recording with the message that the phone was the property of Homeland Security.
Villegas faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release on each count of wire fraud; 3 years imprisonment, $225,000 fine and 1 year supervised release on the charge of impersonating a federal agent. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 5, 2010.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with the assistance of: Pawtucket Police, Rhode Island State Police, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Criminal Identification, and the State Police Fusion Center.