Columbia, South Carolina –------- United States Attorney, Beth Drake, announced today the Michael Ruiz, age 53, and James Mondell, age 55, both of Greenville, South Carolina, entered pleas of guilty as charged in Greenville, South Carolina, before United States Senior District Judge Henry M. Herlong, Jr. Both defendants pled guilty to two counts of Wire Fraud which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, Ruiz pled guilty to three counts of impersonating an official of the United States Immigration Service, each count of which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for December 5, 2017.
The facts presented by Assistant United States Attorney David C. Stephens at the guilty plea hearing established that Ruiz devised a scheme in which he pretended to be an Immigration Official and offered to take care of illegal aliens’ immigration problems in exchange for a fee. A number of aliens agreed to pay Ruiz such fees for his services. Ruiz did absolutely nothing for these aliens, however, he demanded more and more money ultimately threatening to have them deported if he did not receive further payments. Additionally, Ruiz told one alien that he could have his family in Guatemala enter the United States and gain legal status in exchange for a fee. This led to numerous international telephone calls which are the basis for the wire fraud charges. Mondell played a lesser role in the offense. Ruiz would have Mondell with him when he met with the aliens and due to Mondell’s size his presence alone served to intimidate the victims. Additionally, Mondell was involved in handling the payments which were often in the form of money orders which Mondell would cash for Ruiz. The known dollar loss is approximately $60,000.00.
United States Attorney Drake said that this was a significant case, particularly in light of the fact that Ruiz had been out of jail less than six months for committing the same type of offense in New Jersey. She commended agents of ICE-Homeland Security Investigations for their excellent work in the case along with Assistant United States Attorney David C. Stephens, of Greenville, who handled the investigation.