KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Guatemalan national pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a more than $5 million conspiracy that utilized the Missouri Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph to provide more than 3,500 fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens across the United States.
Luis Adalberto Felipe-Lopez, 30, a citizen of Guatemala who was unlawfully in the United States and resided in Mt. Olive, N.C., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to his role in the conspiracy as well as to aggravated identity theft.
Felipe-Lopez participated in a conspiracy from November 2009 to January 2012 to transport illegal aliens, to unlawfully produce identification documents, to unlawfully transfer another person’s identification and to commit Social Security fraud. The government contends that Felipe-Lopez is a leader or manager of the conspiracy.
Felipe-Lopez admitted that he transported illegal aliens between St. Joseph and North Carolina. During the conspiracy, thousands of illegal aliens traveled from across the United States to obtain either a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license at the St. Joseph license office by using unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. Felipe-Lopez admitted that he assisted illegal aliens in obtaining birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of others.
It is estimated that more than 3,500 licenses were issued to illegal aliens by the Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph. The state licenses could then be used by the illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the United States, to unlawfully obtain employment and for other unlawful purposes.
The illegal aliens were usually charged between $1,500 and $1,600 for the document sets and the Missouri driver’s and non-driver’s licenses. It is estimated that more than $5,250,000 in gross proceeds was paid by illegal aliens to members of this conspiracy.
Felipe-Lopez is among 11 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty.
Deborah J. Flores, 47, and her children, Jessica M. Gonzalez, 22, Sara M. Gonzalez, 21, Christina Michelle Gonzalez, 24, and Stephen E. Vanvacter, 25, all of St. Joseph, as well as Jon L. Grippando, 25, of Atkins, Ark., formerly of St. Joseph, have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Flores also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. They admitted that they accompanied illegal aliens to the St. Joseph license office, under the guise of being translators, in order to assist them with obtaining a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license.
Flores and her children also admitted that they instructed and assisted the illegal aliens to practice memorizing the information on the birth certificates and Social Security cards and to practice signing the name on those documents so that the signatures would be similar. They also assisted the illegal aliens to prepare for potential questions from the license office employees. They also assisted the illegal aliens who did not live in Missouri by providing them with a Missouri residential address to use in order to obtain the Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license.
Christina Gonzalez was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution. Jessica Gonzalez was sentenced to three years of probation.
Nelson Dariseo Bautista-Orozco, 27, a citizen of Guatemala who is unlawfully present in the United States and resided in Carthage, Mo., and Julio Cesar Llanas-Rodriguez, 38, and Martin Alejandro Llanas-Rodriguez, 30, both of whom are citizens of Mexico unlawfully present in the United States and resided in San Antonio, Texas, pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft. Ranfe Adaias Hernandez-Flores, 23, a citizen of Guatemala who is unlawfully present in the United States and resided in in Carthage, pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy.
Under federal statutes, Felipe-Lopez is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole for conspiracy, plus a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in federal prison without parole for aggravated identity theft, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jess E. Michaelsen. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security.