FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
MEXICAN NATIONAL PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT VISA FRAUD IN NUEVO LAREDO CONSULATE CASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division and United States Attorney Michael Shelby of the Southern District of Texas announced today that a former seller of U.S. visas in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
Margarita Martinez Ramirez, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information this morning before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison, at federal court in Laredo, Texas. In her plea today, Ramirez admitted to accepting money from Mexican nationals seeking to purchase U.S. visas, and putting them in contact with U.S. Consulate employees who would provide them with the visas.
Ramirez is the fifth person to plead guilty as a result of the seven-month investigation which ultimately resulted in the Jan. 29, 2003 closure of the U.S. Consulate office in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Four former Consulate employees pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud last month. Ramirez was released on bail following her arrest on March 26, 2003.
Ramirez and the four other men - Miguel Partida, a former visa adjudicator at the Consulate, and former visa clerks Sergio Genaro Ochoa-Alarcon, Benjamin Antonio Ayala-Morales and Ramon Alberto Torres-Galvan - all face maximum sentences of five years in prison as a result of their guilty pleas.
The investigation into the visa fraud at the Nuevo Laredo Consulate is being conducted by Special Agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, United States Department of State, and Special Agents of the newly created Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Trial Attorneys Peter Zeidenberg and Jim Oliver, and Assistant United States Attorney Dixie Morrow of the United States Attorney's Laredo Division office.