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Press Release

Mexican National Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Identity Theft and Passport Fraud Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Charges Arise Out of Defendant’s Use of a Stolen Identity for 30 Years

ALBUQUERQUE – Juan Manuel Almanza-Martinez, 58, a Mexican national illegally residing in the United States, pled guilty yesterday in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to making false statements on a passport application and aggravated identity theft charges.


Almanza-Martinez was arrested on July 19, 2017, on a criminal complaint charging him with making a false statement in an application for a passport in Dona Ana County, N.M.  An investigation into Almanza-Martinez was initiated in Feb. 2017, by the Las Cruces office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) after agents received information that Almanza-Martinez was illegally residing in Anthony, N.M.  According to the complaint, the Social Security Administration (SSA) interviewed Almanza-Martinez in 2015, after he applied for Social Security benefits in El Paso, Tex., after learning that the Social Security number Almanza-Martinez provided had been reported stolen from the victim approximately 30 years earlier.  The complaint further alleged that Almanza-Martinez fraudulently used the victim’s Social Security number to apply for replacement Social Security cards in Jan. 2008 and Sept. 2008; for a passport in Nov. 1999, March 2009, and Dec. 2009; and for unemployment benefits in July 2015. 


Court filings reflect that Almanza-Martinez was previously deported from the United States in 1982, following a felony conviction for second-degree burglary in Colorado. They further reflect that in 1990, Almanza-Martinez admitted lying to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (USINS) in 1982, about his name and being a Mexican national, and provided the USINS with a false birth certificate from the State of California.  Due to a lack of available information, the USINS was unable to verify Almanza-Martinez’s citizenship and no further action was taken against Almanza-Martinez at that time.  On March 3, 2017, a certified copy of Almanza-Martinez’s Mexican birth certificate was provided to HSI confirming that Almanza-Martinez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1959.


During yesterday’s proceedings, Almanza-Martinez pled guilty to a felony information charging him with making a false statement in an application for a passport on Dec. 10, 2009, and aggravated identity theft on July 18, 2017.  According to the information, Almanza-Martinez committed the offenses in Dona Ana County.  The guilty plea was entered without the benefit of a plea agreement. 


At sentencing, Almanza-Martinez faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison on the false statement on an application for a passport charge.  He also faces a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in federal prison on the aggravated identify theft charge which must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed.  A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled. 


This case was investigated by the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State, Las Cruces office of HSI and the SSA Office of Inspector General.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Balla and Richard C. Williams of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case. 

Updated October 13, 2017

Identity Theft