Jury Finds Belizean Man Guilty of Attempted Illegal Re-Entry After Deportation
LAREDO, Texas – A federal jury sitting in Laredo has convicted a 46-year-old Belizean man claiming to be a U.S. citizen guilty of attempting to illegally reenter the United States after deportation, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The jury convicted Jerome Aristedes Martinez, of Belize City, Belize, late this afternoon following a two-day trial.
On Aug. 18, 2015, Martinez attempted to enter the United States at the Lincoln Juarez Bridge, claiming to be a U.S. citizen. At that time, he presented an Illinois Identification card and a Department of Homeland Security/Social Security Administration web-site print-out as proof of his citizenship. However, upon questioning, authorities discovered Martinez was actually a native and citizen of Belize who had been removed from the United States twice before. The jury heard that Martinez had never obtained the proper permission to return to the United States after his last removal.
Martinez admitted to having been previously convicted of illegal re-entry after making false claims to U.S. citizenship. However, he testified that after his most recent removal to Belize, he “became aware” that he had been born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and was, therefore, a U.S. citizen.
The jury heard that there is no record of Martinez having been born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and that the only birth record in existence is from Belize. The government also produced documents showing his prior statements acknowledging his Belizean citizenship.
U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo presided over the trial and has set sentencing for June 5, 2017. At that time, Martinez faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Customs and Border Protection conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah M. Ellison and Giselle S. Guerra are prosecuting the case.