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Press Release

Justice Department Seeks to Denaturalize Chicago-Area Gymnastics Coach and Former Olympian Who Sexually Abused Multiple Minor Female Athletes

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Defendant Allegedly Procured U.S. Citizenship for Which He Was Ineligible Due to His Repeated Sexual Abuse of Minor Females He Was Coaching

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit seeking to revoke the naturalized U.S. citizenship of José Vilchis, who allegedly concealed from U.S. immigration authorities his repeated sexual abuse of at least three minor female athletes.   According to the Department’s civil complaint, Vilchis, a native of Mexico, sexually assaulted the girls at various gymnastics training centers in the greater Chicago, Illinois, area over a span of decades. The complaint alleges that beginning as early as 1985, Vilchis sexually assaulted gymnastics students – some as young as 12 – whom he was coaching, and then concealed his conduct throughout multiple immigration proceedings.  The complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.

“The Department of Justice will do everything in its power to hold accountable those who sexually abuse minors,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “This individual’s abuse of his position of authority and trust to prey on his students is reprehensible, and but for his fraud on our immigration process, he never would have been granted a green card and never would have been permitted to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.”

“Vilchis fraudulently gained U.S. citizenship by lying about the horrific, ongoing crimes he was committing against innocent children,” said acting ICE Director Matthew T. Albence.  “His crimes and his fraud have justifiably returned to haunt him as the government pursues his denaturalization. The United States will not allow itself to be a safe haven for sexual predators.”

According to the complaint, Vilchis, 68 – who competed in gymnastics for Mexico during the 1968 Summer Olympics – coached aspiring gymnasts at the Beverly Gymnastics Center in Chicago, the American Academy of Gymnastics in Wheeling, and other gyms in the Chicago area.  Vilchis became a permanent resident of the United States in 1991 and a naturalized citizen in 1997.  The complaint alleges that in his applications for those benefits, Vilchis concealed his criminal conduct, which began in the 1980s and continued through the time he naturalized, and therefore never lawfully obtained either status.

Vilchis is currently awaiting trial in Will County, Illinois, where he faces 18 criminal charges for sexually assaulting a minor in 2013 and 2014. Those allegations, which concern conduct that occurred after Vilchis naturalized, are separate from the allegations concerning whether he unlawfully naturalized by concealing similar conduct against other minor victims in the 1980s and 1990s.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS), with consultation and support from ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.  The case is being prosecuted by Aaron Petty and Kathryne Gray of OIL-DCS’s National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit.

The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there have been no determinations of liability.

Members of the public who have information concerning this matter are encouraged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the DHS tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete its online tip form at  Callers may remain anonymous.

Updated January 10, 2020

Press Release Number: 19-1,362