April 2, 2009
COUNTY COMMISSIONER AND THREE OTHERS CHARGED WITH HARBORING
ALIENS FOR PERSONAL FINANCIAL GAIN AT COUNTY’S EXPENSE
(McALLEN, Texas) – A six-count indictment charging Hidalgo County Precinct One Commissioner Sylvia Sue Handy-Espronceda, 52; her spouse, Juan Gabriel Espronceda, 35; Maria De Los Angeles Landa de Hernandez, 27; and Eloisa Andrade Uriegas, 58, with harboring aliens for financial gain was unsealed today, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson has announced. The defendants are expected to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Peter Ormsby at 3:00 p.m. today.
Handy and Espronceda, residents of Weslaco, Texas, were arrested today without incident. Handy and her husband are accused of orchestrating the fraudulent employment by Hidalgo County of Mexican nationals unlawfully in the United States beginning in March 2005. The Indictment alleges that the primary object of the offenses was to have Hidalgo County monies pay for Handy and Espronceda’s child care and housekeeping provider, Handy’s servant services, and a $50,000 bill consolidation loan acquired by Handy. According to allegations in the indictment, Handy would select a Mexican national who was unlawfully in the United States to be “hired” at her precinct. Handy would then direct Precinct One employees to process a fraudulent job application with the Mexican national’s unlawfully assumed identity.
Counts one and two allege that the fraudulent hiring was done with the purpose of having Hidalgo County monies pay for Handy and Espronceda’s child care provider/housekeeper who was an undocumented alien they were harboring in their home. Counts three and four allege that the fraudulent hiring was done so that an undocumented alien could be harbored and Hidalgo County monies could be used to pay for servant services and a bill consolidation loan Handy had acquired. Counts five and six allege the fraudulent hiring was done so that an undocumented alien could be harbored and Hidalgo County monies could be used to pay for Handy’s child care/housekeeping provider and Handy’s bill consolidation loan. As a result of Handy’s actions, according to the indictment, Hidalgo County paid in excess of $111,000 in fraudulently acquired salaries.
Maria De Los Angeles Landa de Hernandez, a Mexican national, voluntarily surrendered today to investigating agents. Hernandez is accused in counts one and two of fraudulently signing time sheets and fraudulently endorsing and cashing Hidalgo County payroll checks. Counts three and four allege Hernandez was unlawfully in the United States between May 2001 and July 2005, concealed her presence though the use of an unlawfully assumed identity, submitted a fraudulent job application, fraudulently signed time sheets, fraudulently endorsed and cashed Hidalgo County payroll checks and used Hidalgo County monies to make monthly payments on Handy’s bill consolidation loan. Counts five and six allege that between June 2005 through March 2006 Hernandez’ participation included being unlawfully in the United States, concealing her presence through the use of an unlawfully assumed identity, fraudulently signing time sheets, fraudulently endorsing and cashing Hidalgo County payroll checks and using Hidalgo County monies to make monthly payments on Handy’s bill consolidation loan.
Eloisa Andrade Uriegas, a resident of McAllen, was arrested today without incident. Uriegas is charged in counts five and six of the Indictment. Uriegas’ alleged participation in the conspiracy included completing and submitting a fraudulent Hidalgo County job application in her name to facilitate the employment of Hernandez and to acquire Social Security benefits for Uriegas. Additionally, Uriegas allegedly aided Handy and Hernandez in acquiring Hidalgo County monies to harbor and conceal Hernandez and aided in the payment of Hernandez’ child care and housekeeping services to Handy and payment of Handy’s bill consolidation loan.
Each of the six counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole, and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
The indictment was the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Rodriguez.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
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