News and Press Releases


January 18, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Three Mexican nationals were found guilty by a federal jury in Kalamazoo after a four day trial of conspiracy to produce and traffic in fraudulent identification documents and possession of document-making implements, U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis announced today. Sentencing dates for the guilty men, Eddie Castilla-Lugo (37), Israel Armendariz- Becerra (41), and Miguel Merlos-Gonzalez (32), have not yet been set, but each faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a $250,000 fine. Until recently, each of the defendants resided in or near Wichita, Kansas, and each is a previously-deported, illegal alien. Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney presided over the trial and will sentence the three.

The case is the latest in a series of successful investigations and prosecutions conducted by agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI, formerly known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that have targeted the fraudulent identification-document trade. Federal law-enforcement continues to target this activity because the availability of high-quality fraudulent identification documents contributes significantly to the problem of illegal immigration. Such documents enable previously-deported aliens to remain undiscovered, to establish alternate identities, and to blend into society.

In this case, evidence established that the document operation was financed by criminal elements from inside Mexico, who not only provided the expensive equipment used in producing highquality documents that included U.S. Permanent Resident cards (“Green Cards” ), social-security cards, and driver licenses from states such as Michigan, Illinois, and North Carolina, but who also dictated which areas within the Greater Grand Rapids area a particular document crew could operate within and received monthly payments from their franchisees. The three defendants in this case traveled from Wichita, Kansas, to Michigan to join the ongoing fraud operation shortly before HSI agents executed a Federal search warrant for the apartment where the document lab was set up, and where the defendants were staying. Unknown to the new arrivals, the document operation they joined had been under investigation for several months, and was about to be shut down by HSI.

The guilty verdicts bring the total number of convictions in the case to five. Defendants Jose Reyes-Gonzalez (34) and Eduardo Lopez-Sosa (22), who are also citizens of Mexico and illegal aliens, pled guilty to the conspiracy charge pursuant to plea-agreements with the Justice Department in late 2010.

The case was investigated by agents of HSI, and was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank.


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