LOS ANGELES – The former chief of the National Police in Guatemala’s second-largest city has been found guilty by a jury of a federal criminal charge for knowingly using a “green card” whose application to U.S. immigration authorities failed to disclose he had been convicted of murdering two political activists in Guatemala in the 1980s, the Justice Department announced today.
Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, 82, of Fontana, was found guilty late Friday of one count of knowing use of a Lawful Permanent Resident card that was procured by means of a false claim or statement. Valiente is the former chief of the National Police in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
According to evidence presented at his four-day trial, Valiente entered the United States in April 2013 with a Lawful Permanent Resident card – commonly known as a “green card” – that he fraudulently obtained by failing to disclose that he had been arrested and tried for kidnapping and murder in Guatemala.
In October 1987, shortly after Valiente ordered an “investigation” into two political dissidents associated with anti-police protests at local universities in Quetzaltenango, two people were kidnapped in broad daylight by police officers. Days later, their bodies were recovered in separate locations on the side of the road, just outside the city limits. They had been beaten and tortured prior to being killed.
In December 1987, Valiente and others were charged in Guatemala in connection with the kidnappings and murders. He was arrested and remained in custody for two-and-a-half years while the criminal case against him proceeded.
In 1989, Valiente was convicted in Guatemala of double murder. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was ordered to pay approximately $6,000 to the victims’ families. In 1990, an intermediate appellate court overturned Valiente’s conviction, dismissed the charges, and ordered him released from custody.
Immediately after his release from prison, Valiente fled Guatemala. In August 1990, he entered the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. Days later, he filed – under penalty of perjury – an application for asylum. On this application, he falsely denied that he had ever been detained, convicted, sentenced or imprisoned in another country.
The Supreme Court of Guatemala in March 1993 vacated the intermediate appellate court’s ruling and issued a warrant for his arrest.
In September 1997, Valiente filed – under penalty of perjury – a false application for a green card in which he denied having been arrested, charged, fined or imprisoned outside the United States for violating any law.
Valiente subsequently lied under oath to a U.S. immigration official during an interview about the answers on his green card application. The green card was approved and Valiente used it, including presenting it to re-enter the United States at Los Angeles International Airport in April 2013.
United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee scheduled a May 24 sentencing hearing, at which time Valiente will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this matter in coordination with the HSI Attaché in Guatemala City, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, and the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force Los Angeles.
Assistant United States Attorney Joshua O. Mausner of the General Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes may call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.