Friday, December 28, 2012

ICE Announces 2012 Deportation Statistics; Announces New Detainer Guidance

On Friday, December 21, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced the agency's fiscal year (FY) 2012 year-end removal numbers, highlighting trends that underscore the administration's focus on removing from the country convicted criminals and other individuals that fall into priority areas for enforcement.

To further focus ICE resources on the most serious criminal offenders, on Friday, December 21, 2012, ICE also issued new national detainer guidance. This guidance limits the use of detainers to individuals who meet the department's enforcement priorities and restricts the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes, helping to ensure that available resources are focused on apprehending felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities. It is applicable to all ICE enforcement programs, including Secure Communities.

"Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities," said Director Morton. "In order to further enhance our ability to focus enforcement efforts on serious offenders, we are changing who ICE will issue detainers against. While the FY 2012 removals indicate that we continue to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens, with more convicted criminals being removed from the country than ever before, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety."

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has directed ICE to focus its resources on key priorities in all aspects of its immigration enforcement efforts. ICE's implementation of this directive includes the new national detainer policy announced Friday, December 21, 2012, as well as the continued use of investigations and programs like Operation Cross Check that target criminal aliens and ICE's expanded collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to remove recent border crossers.

ICE priorities include the identification and removal of those that have broken criminal laws, threats to national security, recent border crossers and repeat violators of immigration law. Overall, in FY 2012 ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations removed 409,849 individuals. Of these, approximately 55 percent, or 225,390 of the people removed, were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors – almost double the removal of criminals in FY 2008. This includes 1,215 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,557 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 40,448 aliens convicted for crimes involving drugs; and 36,166 aliens convicted for driving under the influence.

ICE continues to make progress with regard to other categories prioritized for removal. Some 96 percent of all ICE's removals fell into a priority category – a record high.

To support DHS' efforts to secure our nation's borders, ICE prioritizes the identification and removal of recent border crossers and conducts targeted enforcement operations with the U.S. Border Patrol. The historic results along the Southwest Border are attributable to the joint efforts of U.S. Border Patrol agents and ICE officers and agents, and the emphasis ICE places on the removal of recent border crossers.

As part of the effort to ensure that the immigration system can focus its resources on priority cases, ICE has also implemented policies and processes that ensure that those enforcing immigration laws make appropriate use of the discretion they have in deciding the types of individuals prioritized for removal from the country. In addition, ICE has also decided not to renew any of its agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate task forces under the 287(g) program. ICE has concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases.

ICE will continue to analyze its policies and the results of its programs, making improvements where necessary to meet our priorities.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ICE Deports Guatemalan Human Smuggler

A Guatemalan national, with dual citizenship in Mexico, was removed from the United States Wednesday, December 19, 2012, by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Orlando Escobar-Leon, aka Eduardo Morales Esquivel, 42, was a leader in a multinational alien smuggling network that was responsible for smuggling East African and Bangladeshi nationals from Colombia into Central America, and eventually, the United States. Due to the high-profile nature of his crimes, officers with ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) turned him over to Guatemalan law enforcement authorities upon his arrival in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Between March 2008 and August 2009, Escobar-Leon and 12 co-conspirators facilitated the smuggling of more than 100 unauthorized illegal aliens into the United States. In return for his services, Escobar-Leon received between $350 and $1,500 per individual.

"This individual completely disregarded the value of human lives," said acting ERO Atlanta Field Office Director David Rivera. "He manipulated the immigration systems of multiple countries, solely to benefit his bottom line."

In January 2010, Escobar-Leon was charged in the United States via criminal complaint with conspiracy to encourage and induce unauthorized aliens to come, enter and reside in the United States

In March 2010, Mexican law enforcement authorities arrested him in coordination with special agents from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mexico City. He was subsequently extradited to the United States where he was arrested and charged for harboring aliens and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. He pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison in March. 

Based on the fact that Escobar-Leon was only extradited to the United States to face charges, he did not have legal immigration status to remain in the United States. Upon his release from prison, he was transferred to ICE custody and processed as an expedited removal. He was detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., before ERO officers removed him back to Guatemala City

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

6 Human Smugglers Sentenced for Alien Trafficking and Harboring

Six people were sentenced Tuesday, December 18, 2012, following their convictions in an illegal alien harboring/transportation conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The defendants sentenced Dec. 18 are: Christian Lara-Reyes, 29; Victor Lara Bravo, 52; and Jose Alfonso Hernandez, 30, all Mexican citizens; and Raquel Dainese Phillips, 23; Dale Franklin Jones, 51; and Clarence Leroy Teel, 53, all of Houston. All previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport and harbor illegal aliens within the United States.

U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller sentenced Lara-Reyes to 24 months in prison. Hernandez and Jones were ordered to serve 11 and four months, respectively. Bravo and Teel were each ordered to serve 12 months in federal prison. Phillips was sentenced to probation and will serve two years on home confinement. Jones and Teel will serve two and three-year-terms of supervised release, respectively, following completion of their prison terms. Lara-Reyes, Bravo and Hernandez are expected to face deportation proceedings upon their release from prison.

The case against these six began after HSI special agents obtained information during the investigation of an alien smuggling operation in the Corpus Christi area headed by Armando Olmedo-Trevino, 47, of Wharton, Texas. Lara-Reyes admitted he transported undocumented aliens from south Texas to the Houston area in order to further facilitate the aliens' movement into the United States at the request of Olmedo-Trevino. Lara-Reyes transported and harbored the undocumented aliens with the assistance of Bravo and Hernandez. Bravo and Hernandez watched over the aliens until smuggling fees were paid by the aliens' friends and family members.

Teel recruited and provided drivers to transport undocumented aliens on behalf of the alien smuggling organization. Teel admitted he began smuggling illegal aliens in 2008 and eventually graduated to recruiting drivers for the alien smuggling organization.

Additional evidence revealed that on multiple occasions, Phillips and Jones transported undocumented aliens for the alien smuggling organization. Phillips informed HSI special agents she was recruited to transport illegal aliens by Jeffery Mark Williams, 55, of Sugar Land, Texas.

On Sept. 7, Williams entered a guilty plea to conspiring to transport and harbor illegal aliens.

He is scheduled to be sentenced March 15, 2013, at which time he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

The case against Olmedo-Trevino was prosecuted in the Corpus Christi Division by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chad Cowan and Jeffrey Preston, Southern District of Texas. He received the statutory maximum of 120 months in prison.

The Houston case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Menes and former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimani Eason, Southern District of Texas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

ICE Target Operation Arrests 17 Criminal Aliens and Immigration Fugitives

Nine criminal aliens, two fugitives and six repeat immigration violators were arrested during a three-day operation in southeast Alabama that concluded Sunday, December 16, 2012, conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

ICE's Birmingham fugitive operations team led the effort, which resulted in the arrest of priority targets in multiple Alabama cities including: Montgomery (6), Opelika (5), Auburn (1), Phenix City (1), Eufaula (1), Skipperville (1), Prattville (1) and Clanton (1).

"These arrests of convicted criminals and repeat immigration violators demonstrate ICE's ongoing commitment to public safety," said ERO New Orleans Field Office Director Philip T. Miller. "When ICE prioritizes these individuals for arrest, our officers and agents work tirelessly to pursue the leads." Miller oversees ERO activities in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The nine criminal aliens arrested during the weekend operation have criminal convictions for crimes to include aggravated assault, burglary, drug smuggling, forgery, stalking, drunken driving, hit-and-run and domestic violence.

Two of the 17 arrested are fugitives who failed to depart the country after an immigration judge ordered them removed from the United States. Nine of the illegal aliens arrested – including six convicted criminals – had been previously deported. Illegally re-entering the United States after removal is a felony offense.

These arrests were coordinated with ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program. The program investigates, locates, arrests and removes at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives – aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by the nation's immigration courts. ICE's fugitive operations teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.

ERO is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ERO also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system, including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

In fiscal year 2011, ERO removed 396,906 individuals nationwide – the largest number in the agency's history. Of these, nearly 55 percent, or 216,698 of the people removed, were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. This includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence.

ERO achieved similar results with regard to other categories prioritized for removal. Ninety percent of all ERO's removals fell into a priority category, and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced for Sex Trafficking

Yimmy Pineda-Penado, aka Critico, 22, of Alexandria, Va., was sentenced by United States District Judge Anthony J. Trenga Friday, December 14, 2012, to 210 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for his role in a gang-run juvenile prostitution ring.

The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington Field Office with assistance from the Fairfax County Police Department and the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.

"Homeland Security Investigations is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate gang members and associates involved in sex trafficking, especially those instances involving juveniles forced into prostitution," said HSI Washington, D.C., Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres. "HSI will continue to aggressively investigate transnational gang members, like Yimmy Pineda-Penado, who engage in sex trafficking and other violent crimes."

According to court documents and testimony, Pineda-Penado, originally from El Salvador, became involved in juvenile sex trafficking through his membership in MS-13. He was personally responsible for prostituting at least one juvenile female. His involvement in MS-13's juvenile sex trafficking scheme lasted from the fall 2009 until the spring 2010.

MS-13 members prostituted the victim at various motels and apartments in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Falls Church, Va., as well as in Maryland. The victim was not permitted to leave the prostitution scheme and MS-13 members plied her with drugs and alcohol to make her more compliant while her body was being exploited for profit.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes. From FY 2011 to the present, 44 defendants have been prosecuted in 25 cases in the Eastern District of Virginia for human trafficking and trafficking-related conduct involving at least 32 victims.

Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or to complete its online tip form:

Anonymous calls are welcome.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Terwilliger and Patricia Giles.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Texas Lawyer Sentenced for Wire Fraud and Identity Theft Conspiracy

A Houston lawyer was sentenced Friday, December 14, 2012, to 12 months and one day in federal prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa and the U.S. Secret Service's Tampa and Newark, N.J., field offices.

Nicolette Loisel, 56, is the second lawyer to be sentenced in the scheme. On Aug. 9, Roger Shoss, 67, also a Houston lawyer, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by 36 months of home confinement.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, from February 2005 through July 2006, Loisel and Shoss conspired to steal the identities of dormant, publicly-traded companies. They then used the corporate identities they had stolen to create fraudulent, empty-shell companies that had the appearance of being publicly traded.

They subsequently sold the fraudulent empty-shell companies for a profit. The four companies featured in the indictment were Mobilestream Inc., Regaltech Inc., Nanoforce Inc. and Rocky Mountain Gold Mining Inc., which emanated from 3E International Inc., Pacific Chemical Inc., Webgalaxy Inc. and Greensmart Corporation, respectively.

The administrative and money laundering functions of this scheme were headquartered in Pinellas County, Fla. Multiple wire transfers, totaling at least $800,000, were initiated from the Middle District of Florida to Shoss, in payment for the companies. Shoss, in turn, paid Loisel more than $450,000 for her role in the scheme.

"These individuals – both lawyers – conspired to make a profit through a sophisticated investment fraud and money laundering scheme," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "HSI works closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute con-artists like Loisel and Shoss."

In addition to their prison sentences, Loisel and Shoss are required to pay a final forfeiture money judgment, in the amount of $800,000. This amount represents proceeds obtained by Loisel and Shoss as a result of their criminal activities.

"The U.S. Secret Service and HSI continually strive to enhance our law enforcement partnership by leveraging our respective capabilities, expertise and manpower in support of our distinct law enforcement missions," said John Joyce, U.S. Secret Service's Tampa special agent in charge. "The U.S. Secret Service and HSI will continue to effectively investigate, deter and diminish the threat posed by various types of criminals to our nation's financial infrastructure."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Attorney Alex Meyerovich Speaks Out Against Human Trafficking on Connecticut News12

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- M.C. Law Group Attorney Alex Meyerovich recently appeared on the Connecticut News12 program "Our Lives" to speak out against human trafficking.

Also known as "modern day slavery," reported cases of human trafficking have risen 60% in 2011 compared to 2010, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (HTRS). Reported cases of human trafficking have been steadily increasing for the last five years.

Attorney Meyerovich discussed human trafficking with "Our Lives" host Gwen Edwards, and explained that human trafficking is on the rise because the financial gain of exploiting human life is simply too great.

"It's widespread because it's cheap labor, and billions of dollars are involved -- it's supply and demand," Meyerovich said.

Human trafficking occurs when a victim is held hostage and forced to work against their will, commonly as commercial sex workers, drug traffickers, or laborers in unregulated industries. Victims are often held in deplorable conditions and suffer physical and sexual abuse.

Attorney Meyerovich, whose firm specializes in immigration law, knows how susceptible illegal immigrants are in particular to human traffickers. Immigrants pay smugglers to be brought into the U.S. illegally, and on arrival smugglers demand more money from their captives. Immigrants then must work to repay their "debts," and are held hostage with threats of violence or deportation.

"I've dealt with victims running away from drug cartels and sexual exploitation," said Meyerovich of past clients affected by human trafficking. "They're traumatized and afraid to talk."

Human trafficking victims are not likely to seek help for fear of retribution. The problem goes unnoticed by most Americans because victims remain silent and are often hidden in plain sight.

Meyerovich also urged parents to be aware of how vulnerable children are to human traffickers and sexual exploitation, especially in an age of exposure through social media.

"People need to know that it happens, and that it is very easy to manipulate kids' minds," Meyerovich said. "Children are extorted and threatened to be exposed on Facebook, or to their parents and teachers…and they become victims of sexual exploitation."

In fact, sex trafficking preys on Americans at a shocking rate, with HTRS reporting that 80% of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens. "Our Lives" host Ms. Edwards and Meyerovich urged viewers -- and especially parents -- to be aware that human trafficking and sexual exploitation exists in communities throughout the U.S.

"Parents need to be educated that their kid's classmate could be a victim of human trafficking," Meyerovich added, explaining that young victims may still attend school, but may act shy and fearful of their peers and teachers.

Ultimately, Meyerovich offered a dual solution to combat human trafficking: increased awareness and immigration reform. Only with both, Meyerovich explained, will "modern day slavery" become a thing of the past.

Watch the full "Our Lives" segment featuring Attorney Meyerovich below:

To learn more about human trafficking, including how to recognize victims and report suspected cases, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New $165 USCIS Immigrant Fee Begins Feb. 1, 2013

On Feb. 1, 2013,U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin collecting a new USCIS Immigrant Fee of $165 from foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the United States. This new fee was established in USCIS’s final rule adjusting fees for immigration applications and petitions announced on Sept. 24, 2010.
USCIS has worked closely with the Department of State (DOS) to implement the new fee which allows USCIS to recover the costs of processing immigrant visas in the United States after immigrant visa holders receive their visa packages from DOS. This includes staff time to handle, file and maintain the immigrant visa package, and the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card. The implementation of this new fee is further detailed in a Federal Register notice.
In order to simplify and centralize the payment process, applicants will pay online through the USCIS website after they receive their visa package from DOS and before they depart for the United States. DOS will provide applicants with specific information on how to submit payment when they attend their consular interview. The new fee is in addition to fees charged by DOS associated with an individual’s immigrant visa application.
USCIS processes approximately 36,000 immigrant visa packages each month. Prospective adoptive parents whose child will enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague processes are exempt from the new fee.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

ICE Target Operation Arrests 17 Criminal Aliens and Immigration Fugitives

As part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators, 17 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested during a three-day operation in the Madison area.

This operation concluded Sunday, December 9, 2012, and was conducted by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations teams in Milwaukee.

All 17 arrested had prior convictions for crimes, such as: assault, battery, drunken driving, child abuse causing serious injury, felony stalking, false imprisonment and theft. One of those arrested was an immigration fugitive who had been previously ordered to leave the country but failed to depart; five others had been previously deported and illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony.

Following is the nationality breakdown of the 17 men arrested: Mexico (15), Honduras (1) and Nicaragua (1). Nine arrests occurred in Madison; additional arrests were made in the following Wisconsin communities: Fitchburg, Fort Atkinson, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Watertown, Waukesha and Windsor.

Following are summaries of three individuals arrested during this operation:

·                             A 37-year-old Mexican national has prior criminal convictions for child abuse causing serious injury and criminal damage to property. He was previously deported to Mexico in 2000 and illegally re-entered the United States. He was arrested Dec. 7 near his Waukesha residence and faces federal prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported.
·                             A 35-year-old Mexican national has prior criminal convictions for petty theft, hit and run of an attended vehicle, criminal damage to property, misappropriation of an ID and escape. He was previously deported to Mexico three times: in 2000, 2002 and 2009. He was arrested Dec. 7 in Ft. Atkinson and remains in ICE custody pending removal. He may face federal prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States after deportation.
·                             A 24-year-old Mexican national has prior criminal convictions for battery, bail jumping and disorderly conduct. He was previously deported to Mexico in 2007 and illegally re-entered the United States. He was arrested Dec. 8 at his Madison residence and remains in ICE custody pending removal. He may face federal prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported.

"ERO is committed to improving the safety of our communities by arresting and removing convicted criminal aliens and egregious immigration violators who have no regard for U.S. laws," said Ricardo Wong, field office director for ERO Chicago. "By prioritizing our efforts on criminal aliens, we significantly improve public safety while making the best use of our resources."

This enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP), which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives. ICE received substantial assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

HSI Dismantles Human Smuggling Ring During Routine Traffic Stop

It began with a routine traffic stop in Tampa, Fla. On February 4, 2012, just after 5 p.m., Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies pulled over 21-year-old Kathleen Roberson. Not only did she not have a valid driver's license, but she was also transporting five illegal aliens in her Kia Sorrento.

Roberson and one of her passengers, Jessica Roland, were transporters for a much larger human smuggling organization that operated out of Arizona and Alabama. The organization transported illegal aliens to final destinations throughout the United States.

The sheriff's office and the U.S. Border Patrol notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) about the incident. Two days later, HSI initiated an investigation to determine who Roberson and Roland were working for.

"When conducting these investigations, we look for the root of the problem. We were determined to dismantle the larger criminal organization behind the smuggling activity," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

Further investigation led HSI to the organization's leadership, including brothers Jose Bartolo Calixto-Moran and Pedro Calixto-Moran, and Pedro's girlfriend Marilu Ramirez-Bartolo. The brothers and Ramirez-Bartolo were all Mexican citizens illegally residing in the United States.

"Human smugglers completely disregard the value of human lives. They transport people across the border like commodities, often in squalid conditions," said McCormick. "We estimate this organization was transporting nearly 80 illegal aliens each month from Phoenix to final destinations across the United States."

As a result of HSI's investigation, the court sentenced Pedro Calixto-Moran to 71 months in prison, Jose Calixto-Moran to 41 months in prison and Ramirez-Bartolo to 27 months in prison for their roles in the human smuggling organization. Roberto Jimenez-Delgado was also sentenced to 33 months in prison for transporting illegal aliens. Roberson and Roland cooperated with the investigation, and as a result, were sentenced to time served.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Mexican Nationals Sentenced to Life for Narcotics Smuggling

Two Mexican men involved in separate narcotics smuggling conspiracies were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, December 5, 2012, in North Carolina. Both investigations involved U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to filed documents and court proceedings, Alejandro Salinas Garcia, 31, led a conspiracy that lasted from 2002 to 2009, and involved the importation of more than 600 kilograms of cocaine, in excess of one kilogram of crack cocaine, approximately two kilograms of methamphetamine and more than 5,000 pounds of marijuana, primarily from Mexico through the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Court filings indicate that Garcia was the leader of the conspiracy and the local source of supply for the drug trafficking organization.

Court records show that, among other things, Garcia used his co-defendants to distribute the narcotics and to enforce and collect debts from customers.

The investigation of Garcia's trafficking organization was conducted by HSI, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI), the North Carolina Alcohol Enforcement Agency, the Hickory Police Department, the Catawba County Sheriff's Office, the Newton Police Department, the Iredell County Sheriff's Office and the Davie County Sheriff's Office.

Garcia was sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Voorhees following his prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina.

Cesar Sierro-Pineda, 34, of Mexico, was also sentenced to life in prison by Judge Voorhees for his role in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. According to filed court documents and court proceedings, Sierro-Pineda, aka "El Chocado," was a distributor for the Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacana. From November 2010 through February 2011, Sierro-Pineda imported into the United States from Mexico near-pure crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice. The defendant also cooked the methamphetamine in an informal superlab in his home in Duluth, Ga., court records show. A superlab is a laboratory capable of producing 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine in a single production cycle.

Court filings indicate that on Nov. 8, 2010, Sierro-Pineda attempted to import approximately 6.5 kilograms of ice into the United States using a courier. U.S. authorities seized the methamphetamine at the International Port of Entry in Laredo, Texas. Sierro-Pineda continued selling methamphetamine to customers in other states, including North Carolina, court records show.

On Feb. 25, 2011, law enforcement raided Sierro-Pineda's superlab in Duluth, seizing five gallons of liquid methamphetamine in the process of being converted to crystal methamphetamine. That volume of liquid methamphetamine could be converted into 20 pounds of methamphetamine. During the investigation, law enforcement also seized more than two additional pounds of methamphetamine and 20 firearms.

The investigation was conducted by HSI, NC SBI, the Rowan County Sheriff's Office, the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office and the Iredell County Sheriff's Office.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Hire Illegal Aliens and Mail Fraud

Following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty Thursday December 6, 2012, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Eleni Nguyen, 29, of Phoenixville, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to the charge in connection with filing false documents with the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation program. Nguyen is the third person charged in a scheme involving a temporary employment agency hiring illegal alien employees. Nguyen is the owner of the employment agency.

Andri Gunawan, a representative for the company, previously entered guilty pleas to various crimes, including conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, harboring illegal aliens and mail fraud.

Both Gunawan and Nguyen are awaiting sentencing.

As part of the scheme, members of the employment agency contracted with various third party businesses to provide temporary employees. The conspirators would fulfill these contracts by hiring illegal aliens and paying them in cash "under the table," failing to pay various federal, state and local taxes, fees or compensation insurance. Using this scheme, the temporary employment agency was able to maximize its profits.

At sentencing, Nguyen faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, the Pennsylvania State Police and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assisted in the investigation.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kidnapping Suspect Deported to Mexico

A Mexican national wanted for kidnapping in Mexico was escorted out of the United States by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers Friday, November 30, 2012, and turned over to Mexican law enforcement officials.

Joel Quintero-Cisneros, 30, is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in Mexico for aggravated kidnapping. According to the warrant, dated March 13, the crime occurred May 6, 2011, in Santa Gertrudis in the Mexican state of Oaxaca at approximately 9 p.m. Quintero-Cisneros, armed with a .38 caliber handgun, and two co-conspirators who have already been sentenced, kidnapped the victim – a mother of three young children – at her home and demanded 1.5 million pesos (approximately $116,000) in ransom from the victim's relatives.

"Mr. Quintero-Cisneros will now have to face justice for this alleged horrific crime," said M. Yvonne Evans, field office director for ERO Washington. "My office is committed to working closely with our foreign law enforcement partners to remove and return individuals like this, who are wanted for violent crimes in their home countries."

Quintero-Cisneros entered the United States illegally on an unknown date and at an unknown location. On Aug. 22, ERO's fugitive operations team apprehended Quintero-Cisneros at his residence in Danville, Va., based on his illegal status in the United States.

On Nov. 1, an immigration judge in Arlington, Va., granted Quintero-Cisneros voluntary departure under safeguards. Due to the active warrant in Mexico, ERO escorted him back to his home country and turned him over to the custody of Mexican law enforcement officials.

Quintero-Cisneros was flown via an ERO Air Operations Unit (IAO) charter flight to Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, and then escorted by ERO San Antonio's special response team to the Gateway International Bridge Port of Entry in Brownsville, Texas. Prior to his removal, Quintero-Cisneros was being held in ERO custody at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Va.

Since 2006, the IAO Unit, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., has supported ERO by providing mass air transportation and removal coordination services to ERO field offices nationwide. Staffed by ERO officers, these air charters enable the agency to repatriate large groups of deportees in an efficient, expeditious and humane manner.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 500 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

HSI Recues Toddler from Human Smuggling Ring

Late the night of Wednesday, November 28, 2012, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) recovered a toddler who had been separated from her mother during a human smuggling venture.

The 23-month-old child was recovered Nov. 28 after being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. The mother was separated from the child following their illegal entry into the United States; she was subsequently apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol officers near the south Texas border.

The girl's mother informed officers that she was in contact with smugglers about her daughter and that the smugglers were seeking additional money to return the child. Contact was made with an individual in Houston alleging to be the child's babysitter. After a series of calls, the child was delivered to HSI special agents in Houston. The young girl is currently in Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) custody. HSI is working with CPS to reunite the child with her mother.

Information developed by HSI Falcon Dam special agents revealed that smuggling arrangements were made to have the child transported to New York for a fee of $9,000. This investigation is ongoing.

Human smuggling is the importation of people into the United States by deliberately evading immigration laws. This includes bringing illegal aliens into the country, as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of illegal aliens already in the country. Smuggling situations often involve death, rape, torture and assault.

HSI is the lead U.S. law enforcement agency responsible for combating human smuggling and human trafficking.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

USCIS Announces Transitional Worker Limit for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

On Friday, November 30, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 limit for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Workers (CW-1) is 15,000. The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (CNRA) requires an annual reduction of the number of CW-1s, the nonimmigrant category for these transitional workers. On 11/30/2012, DHS published a notice in the Federal Register announcing this decision.
Under the CNRA, the CNMI became part of the United States for purposes of immigration law on Nov. 28, 2009. The CNRA included a transition period to eventually phase-out the CNMI’s nonresident worker program and transition to the U.S. federal immigration system. The CW-1 transitional worker program allows foreign nationals who are ineligible for any existing employment-based nonimmigrant category under the Immigration and Nationality Act work in the CNMI during the transition period. An annual reduction in the total number of CW-1s granted each year will lead to the elimination of the CW nonimmigrant classification by the end of the transition period. The CW program will end Dec. 31, 2014, unless it is extended by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.  
For FY 2012, the numerical limitation for CW-1s was set at 22,416, during which employers in the CNMI filed Form I-129CW petitions for more than 12,000 transitional workers. DHS has set the CW-1 limit for FY 2013 at 15,000 to meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while reducing the numerical limitation as required by the CNRA. Petitions requesting a work start date in FY 2013 (between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013) will be counted towards the 15,000 limit. 
This notice does not affect the status of current CW-1 workers unless their employer files for an extension of their current authorized period of stay or they seek to change CW-1 employer. The numerical limitation only applies to CW-1 principals and does not directly affect the status of a person currently holding CW-2 status as the spouse or minor child of a CW-1 nonimmigrant. However, CW-2 nonimmigrants may be indirectly affected because their status depends upon that of the principal CW-1.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

War Criminal Wanted for Involvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina Human Rights Violations is Arrested

An Utica man was arrested early the morning of Wednesday, November 28, 2012, by federal law enforcement pursuant to an extradition request from the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The man is wanted in his home country for crimes that he committed while commanding a platoon in the Army of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia.

Sulejman Mujagic, 50, of Utica, has been charged in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the unlawful killing of the enemy, and unlawful wounding and torture of a prisoner of war. The charges stem from his actions during a battle March 6, 1995, where he allegedly murdered a captured soldier and tortured another captured soldier who were fighting on behalf of the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mujagic, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, moved to Utica in July 1997. He is now pending extradition to face charges abroad.

Law enforcement activities in the United States were handled by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Operations (HSI). Other federal, state and local law enforcement participated in today's arrest, including: U.S. Marshals Service, New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, Utica Police Department, and Oneida County Sheriff's Office.

The U.S. government wants to recognize the close cooperation between the United States, and Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities, particularly the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office of Una-Sana Canton. United States, and Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities have cooperated on numerous war crimes cases in the past and will continue to work closely together in the future to bring alleged perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

HSI is committed to rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who have participated in war crimes and acts of genocide, torture and extrajudicial killings. These individuals may use fraudulent identities to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the toll-free HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact HSI's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. Tips may be provided anonymously.

Since fiscal year 2004, HSI has arrested more than 200 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, the agency obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 400 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 180 active investigations and is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from nearly 95 different countries.

Monday, December 3, 2012

54 Month Sentence for Mexican National Who Trafficked Stolen Identities of Puerto Rican U.S. Citizens

A Mexican national was sentenced Monday, November 26, 2012, to 54 months in prison for trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico; Director John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Director Scott P. Bultrowicz of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber.

Jose Sergio Garcia-Ramirez, 37, formerly of Rockford, Ill., was sentenced Nov. 26 by U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, in the District of Puerto Rico. Judge Gelpí also ordered Garcia-Ramirez to forfeit $35,900 in proceeds and ordered the removal of Garcia-Ramirez from the United States after the completion of his sentence.

On July 17, Garcia-Ramirez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin in the District of Puerto Rico.

Garcia-Ramirez was charged in a superseding indictment returned March 22 by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico. To date, 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme; 18 defendants have pleaded guilty.

Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers), obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States (identity brokers) allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set.

The superseding indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

Court documents allege that some identity brokers assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation. Their customers allegedly generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver's licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.

According to court documents, various identity brokers were operating in the following locations: Rockford, Ill.; DeKalb, Ill.; Aurora, Ill.; Seymour, Ind.; Columbus, Ind.; Indianapolis; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn, Ga.; Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Mass.; Lawrence, Mass.; Salem, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington, N.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton, Pa.; Philadelphia; Houston; Abingdon, Va.; Albertville, Ala.; and Providence, R.I.
Garcia-Ramirez admitted that he was an identity broker in the conspiracy, operating in Illinois. Garcia-Ramirez is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in this case.

The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by HSI Chicago and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with HSI San Juan. The following agencies provided substantial assistance: Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin (Ill.) Police Department; Seymour (Ind.) Police Department; and Indiana State Police. The HSI Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country, also provided invaluable assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James S. Yoon, Hope S. Olds, Courtney B. Schaefer and Christina Giffin of the Justice Department Criminal Division's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of Acting Deputy Chief Jeannette Gunderson of the Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the support of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Attorney's Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana, District of Connecticut, District of Massachusetts, District of Nebraska, Middle District of North Carolina, Southern District of Ohio and Western District of Virginia provided substantial assistance.