News and Press Releases

Illegal Alien Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Use of Immigration Documents

April 9, 2013

Contact Person: Beth Drake (803) 929-3000

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Clara Lopez, age 22, of Myrtle Beach, SC, pled guilty this week in federal court in Florence, to unlawful use of an immigration document, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(b)(1). United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that employers are required to verify that aliens are qualified to work in South Carolina by ensuring that an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is properly completed. On July 31, 2012, Homeland Security Investigations served a Notice of Inspection on the Avista Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina requesting copies of the documents that were presented by employees to gain employment. While conducting a review of the I-9 forms, HSI investigators identified 27 current employees working with suspected fraudulent documents. One of those employees was identified as Clara Lopez. The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 for Lopez was signed in May 2008, and Lopez falsely claimed to be a lawful permanent resident. Lopez also supplied a false social security card which contained someone else’s social security number and supplied a permanent resident card with an alien number which had not been assigned to Lopez or anyone else.

Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Lopez can receive is a fine of $250,000.00 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100.00.

The case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorney William E. Day, II of the Florence office handled the case.


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