Friday, February 22, 2013

San Diego Man Sentenced for Child Sex Trafficking

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced a San Diego man Monday, February 11, 2013, to serve 150 months in federal prison for the trafficking of a 14-year-old girl he prostituted over the course of several days at various motels and hotels in Southern California.

Randy Martell Ballard, 28, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to child sex trafficking following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the National City Police Department. In addition to the prison term, Ballard was ordered to pay a $1 million fine and register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

"Child sex trafficking is an unmerciful crime," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. "HSI special agents are committed to fully pursuing those who take advantage of our most valuable resource – the young and vulnerable children who fall victim to these intolerable acts."

According to the case special agents, after Ballard recruited the victim in El Paso, Texas, he purchased a one-way Greyhound bus ticket for the two of them to Los Angeles. He then prostituted the girl under a false name and posted online prostitution ads for her services.

HSI special agents arrested Ballard and rescued the victim in May 2012 during an undercover sting at a Los Angeles-area hotel. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mexican National Arrested for Impersonating Immigration Officer

A Mexican national who lived locally, and who allegedly impersonated a federal immigration officer, remains in custody following his arrest Monday, February 11, 2013, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jose Mario Carrera-Marrufo, 30, is charged with wire fraud, impersonating a federal officer or employee of the United States, and money laundering. A federal grand jury indicted him Feb. 6.
HSI special agents assigned to the El Paso Financial Operations and Currency Unified Strike Force, or FOCUS, arrested him in a central El Paso public housing apartment Feb. 11. ICE's Office of Personal Responsibility, or OPR, in El Paso also assisted with this investigation.

"El Paso's FOCUS team is a force multiplier for HSI," said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. "This case identified an illegal scheme to extort victims. It also identified a vulnerability that seriously threatened homeland security and the legal process of obtaining an immigration benefit."

According to court records, between Nov. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2011, Carrera-Marrufo knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme to defraud and to obtain money and property by making fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.

Carrera-Marrufo is named in an eight-count indictment returned Feb. 6 alleging that he posed as an employee, officer, or agent of an agency that deals with immigration matters, or as an immigration attorney to his victims.

He requested money over the telephone, by text message and email. In some cases, he met people in person. The people he allegedly defrauded heard of him through word of mouth.

According to the indictment: "As part of the scheme … to defraud, (Carrera-Marrufo) targeted individuals who had exhausted, or were in the process of exhausting all legitimate means to secure immigration documentation for their relatives and themselves."

The victims were told to email various identification documents to Carrera-Marrufo's email address to begin or facilitate the process of obtaining immigration documents. Once Carrera-Marrufo received the documents, he instructed his victims to deposit money in bank accounts that have been linked to him, even though they were not in his name.

At times Carrera-Marrufo told his victims he was working on a "package deal," and encouraged the victim to refer others to him to reduce the total cost to the victim, or facilitate the progress of the victim's paperwork.

However, none of the victims received immigration documents after submitting payments to him.

Carrera-Marrufo collected between $1,000 to $10,800 each from his victims, according to the indictment.

Carrera-Marrufo had his initial hearing Tuesday, and remains in federal custody. His detention hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Friday in U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert CastaƱeda's courtroom.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General also supported the investigation.

The El Paso FOCUS is a multi-agency financial strike force that detects and targets a wide variety of financial crimes. It is comprised of the following agencies: HSI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. Each participating agency utilizes its own unique authorities to enhance the task force's capabilities. Strike force members target financial crimes such as money laundering, mortgage and bank fraud, structuring, trade-based money laundering, money transmitting businesses/couriers, bulk cash smuggling and other financial crimes.

The El Paso FOCUS also aggressively targets assets illegally derived by criminal organizations.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

USCIS Welcomes 19,000 New Citizens During Presidents' Day Ceremonies

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will recognize Presidents Day,  welcoming more than 19,000 people as U.S. citizens during 135 naturalization ceremonies across the country Feb. 15 through Feb. 22.
“Throughout our nation’s history, the words and deeds of U.S. presidents have inspired Americans to uphold the ideals of freedom and equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “For Presidents Day, we welcome 19,000 new citizens who share these same ideals.”
The celebration of citizenship will culminate Feb. 22, the birthday of the first U.S. president, George Washington, with a ceremony at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens in Mount Vernon, Va.
 Other special events celebrating our presidents include ceremonies on:
*               Feb. 15 at the California Veterans Memorial in Sacramento, Calif.;
*               Feb. 19 at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, N.Y.;
*               Feb. 21 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.; and
*               Feb. 21 at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

USCIS Special Naturalization Ceremonies Celebrate Presidents' Day

USCIS celebrates Presidents’ Day by welcoming thousands of new citizens in special naturalization ceremonies across the nation.
Presidents’ Day celebrations run February 15-22. A list of highlighted ceremonies are below:
City, State
Friday, February 15, 2013
Sacramento, CA
California Veterans Memorial     
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Buffalo, NY
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site 
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
St. Paul, MN
Macalester College, John Davis Lecture Hall    
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
San Diego, CA
Golden Hall 
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Sacramento, CA 
Sacramento Convention Center
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Boston, MA
Museum of African American History
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Parris Island, SC
Marine Corps Recruit Depot
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Baltimore, MD
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum      
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Campbell, CA
Campbell Heritage Theater
Friday, February 22, 2013
Mount Vernon, VA
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens

Friday, February 15, 2013

Leader of Interstate Sex Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty

Michelle Matney, 38, of Greensboro, N.C., pleaded guilty Friday, February 8, 2013, for her role as the leader of an interstate prostitution organization and to conspiracy to persuade others to travel to engage in prostitution. This case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Henrico County Police Division.

John P. Torres, special agent in charge for HSI Washington, D.C.; U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, Eastern District of Virginia; and Chief of Police Douglas A. Middleton, Henrico County Police Division, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Matney faces a maximum penalty of five years of incarceration when she is sentenced on May 10, 2013.

In a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Matney admitted to recruiting and supervising numerous prostitutes from 2010 through 2012. She acknowledged that she would recruit prostitutes to work for her, encourage them to travel to various states other than North Carolina, where she was based, to work as prostitutes, post prostitution advertisements online for them and set up prostitution appointments with clients.

In exchange, Matney received a portion of the earnings that the women made from prostitution. Matney came to the attention of law enforcement after the Henrico County Police Department arrested several women for prostitution who stated that they were working for Matney.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie L. Mickelson and Roderick C. Young are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Central Participant in Human Smuggling Ring Sentenced to Prison

A Guatemalan national who admitted playing a central role in a large-scale human smuggling organization that brought thousands of illegal aliens from Central America to Southern California, often holding them against their will in so-called drop houses, has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Fredy Oswaldo Gamez Reyes, 44, was sentenced Wednesday, February 6, 2013, by Judge S. James Otero, who pointed to the smuggling organization's tactics, including the use of weapons and guard dogs to intimidate the illegal aliens, as the basis for the 96-month prison term.

Gamez pleaded guilty in May 2012 to six criminal counts of harboring and concealing illegal aliens for financial gain, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). According to court documents, Gamez acknowledged he served as a supervisor for a criminal organization that smuggled more than 6,000 illegal aliens into Southern California during a three-year period, beginning in 2008, generating an estimated $10 million in income.

HSI's probe revealed Gamez held a number of jobs within the organization, including locating and renting drop houses, overseeing the operation of those locations, and collecting smuggling fees from the illegal aliens' relatives in exchange for the illegal aliens' release. HSI's investigation also uncovered numerous incidents perpetrated by members of the organization involving beatings, sexual assaults and hostage taking.

"As this sentence makes clear, those who exploit people in this brutal and despicable way will themselves face serious consequences," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Alien smugglers view their clients as nothing more than a payday and they have no qualms about using threats and violence to collect their smuggling fees."

The smuggling organization originally came to authorities' attention in July 2009 after HSI special agents and Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies responded to a drop house in Compton where 20 individuals were reportedly being held against their will. Two of the captive aliens wrote a plea for help on a napkin and threw it out the window, where it was found by neighborhood children.

Evidence uncovered during the ensuing the investigation showed Gamez was responsible for overseeing the operation of the Compton location, along with three other human smuggling drop houses in Baldwin Park, Lynwood and Hesperia.

HSI's investigation into this smuggling organization is ongoing. To date, 11 other individuals involved in the ring have been arrested and/or convicted of federal charges, resulting in sentences of 33 to 51 months. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Immigration Consultant and Associate Arrested for Marriage and Immigration Fraud

A suburban immigration consultant is among two defendants arrested the week of Friday, February 8, 2013, after being indicted for allegedly conspiring to arrange sham marriages to evade immigration laws and enable foreign nationals to illegally become U.S. permanent residents. The pair allegedly arranged at least four fraudulent marriages and attempted to arrange a fifth between a foreign national and an undercover special agent who was posing as a private U.S. citizen.

These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partner agencies on the Chicago Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which includes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

Teresita Zarrabian, 60, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Des Plaines, and Michael Smith, 41, a U.S. citizen residing in Bellwood, were charged in a seven-count indictment that was returned Jan. 31 and unsealed when they were arrested Thursday, February 7, 2013. They are each charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and visa fraud. 

Zarrabian, the owner of Zarrabian and Associates, an immigration consulting business in Arlington Heights, was also charged with obstructing justice.

Zarrabian and Smith pleaded not guilty when they appeared Thursday, February 7, 2013, and Friday, February 8, 2013, respectively, in district court. They were released on their own recognizance.

"Marriage fraud is a serious crime that exploits our nation's immigration system and poses a vulnerability to our security," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "HSI will continue its efforts to identify and arrest individuals whose actions show a complete disregard for U.S. immigration laws, which undermines the legitimate immigration process."

According to the indictment, between 2005 and 2012, Zarrabian assisted foreign-born clients to complete the necessary forms to become U.S. permanent residents based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. Clients paid Zarrabian between $8,000 and $15,000 in exchange for arranging fraudulent marriages to U.S. citizens recruited by Zarrabian and Smith, the charges allege.
Foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens legitimately may lawfully become U.S. permanent residents, but not if the marriage is a sham to evade immigration laws.

Zarrabian allegedly paid Smith a portion of the money she received from foreign-born clients for Smith's recruited U.S. citizen spouses. In turn, Zarrabian allegedly promised to pay about $5,000 to the U.S. citizen spouses for their participation in a sham marriage. Both defendants arranged to have individuals travel to Las Vegas for a fraudulent wedding and also took photos of the "couple" and other steps to create the false impression that the sham marriages were legitimate. Zarrabian also met with the couples and told them what actions they needed to take to make their marriages appear legitimate during marriage interviews with officials, according to the indictment.

The obstruction count alleges that Zarrabian attempted to persuade a U.S. citizen involved in a fraudulent marriage from communicating information to law enforcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Iweagwu, Northern District of Illinois, is prosecuting the case.

Conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and each count of marriage fraud carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Visa fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction count against Zarrabian carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Diversity Visa Lottery Scams: Part IV

What do I need to know about scams?

Scammers try to trick people who enter the Diversity Visa Lottery. Scammers might:
·                 charge you money to help you apply
·                 promise to increase your chance of being picked
·                 send you a message saying you won and ask for money.
If you remember how the Diversity Visa Lottery works, it will be hard for scammers to get your money.
·                 It is free to enter the Diversity Visa lottery at
·                 The drawing is random. There is no way to increase your chance of winning.
·                 You can find out your status only at
·                 You do not pay until you find out your entry was picked, and you go to the U.S. embassy or consulate in person for your appointment.

What should I do if I spot a scam?

If you suspect a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission:
·                 Call 1-877-382-4357.
·                 Go to
You can give as much information as you want. Investigators are happy for any information you give.

Friday, February 8, 2013

USCIS Updates and Improve Certain Immigration Forms

USCIS published improved forms in easier-to-use formats and with new data collection technologies:
*               Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, and Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (published on Feb. 4): provide clear and comprehensive instructions in plain language and are in a user-friendly format.
*               Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (published on Jan. 16): improves the application intake process and reduces customer errors. This two-column, Adobe fillable electronic form restricts incorrect entries and provides informational pop-up boxes to assist customers.
*               Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (published on Jan. 16): includes 2D barcode technology to improve data quality and operational efficiency. The barcode at the bottom of the page stores the data on the form when entered electronically.
USCIS has also launched a new USCIS Form Improvements Initiative Web Page which explains the types of improvements in the initiative, introduces recently published and upcoming forms, and links to each form’s landing Web page. Visitors will also find information related to form improvement initiatives, including enhanced Web content (i.e., posting filing addresses and detailed fee information on form landing pages) and filing reminders.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Diversity Visa Lottery Scams: Part III

What happens after I enter the Diversity Visa Lottery?

You enter the Diversity Visa Lottery at Then the State Department gives you a confirmation number. Keep that number safe. You will need it to check your status.
Diversity Visa Lottery winners are picked at random by a computer. There is no way to increase your chance of being picked.

You can find out your status only at The State Department will never send you a letter or email to say you won. If you see that kind of message, it is a scam.

If your entry is picked, you will have to pay a fee. You pay it only when you go to the U.S. embassy or consulate for your appointment. The U.S. government will never ask you to send money in advance by check, money order, or wire transfer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Diversity Visa Lottery Scams: Part II

How do I enter the Diversity Visa Lottery?

This is what you need to know:
  • You can enter the Diversity Visa Lottery once a year. The Lottery is open for about a month in the fall.
  • There is only one place to enter the Diversity Visa Lottery: This State Department website has a form where you:
  • answer questions
  • give information about yourself, your spouse, and your children under 21
  • submit digital photos of yourselves.
  • It is free to enter the Diversity Visa Lottery.
You can enter once each year. If you enter the Diversity Visa Lottery more than once in a year, your entries will not count. Your spouse can enter separately if he or she qualifies.

If your entry is picked, you can include your spouse on your application, and children if they are single and under 21.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Diversity Visa Lottery Scams: Part I

Each year, the U.S. Department of State runs the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. That program lets people from some countries apply to be a "Lawful Permanent Resident." That is what many people call "getting a Green Card."
You can enter the lottery if you are from an eligible country and you meet the educational or work requirements. If your entry is picked, you get the chance to apply to be a Lawful Permanent Resident.
But dishonest people might try to trick you. Learn the facts about the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. It can help you avoid these scams.

Monday, February 4, 2013

ICE Director Speaks Out Against Human Trafficking at Georgetown University

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton delivered a keynote address to the Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium at Georgetown University, Wednesday, January 30, 2013.

The event brought government, academic, not for profit and business leaders together to help reimagine the ongoing fight against human trafficking. Other keynote speakers included actress Mira Sorvino, a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador on Human Trafficking and Tony West, acting associate attorney general.

"It's fitting for us to meet during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to discuss the crime of human trafficking," said Morton. "The grim reality is that human trafficking and sexual exploitation are a very real part of the modern world… To defeat human trafficking we must attack it relentlessly. There is no other way. There is no other answer. It is simply one of the great wrongs of our time. And attack it we will."

In his address, Morton discussed ICE's recent successes combatting human trafficking, including this January's conclusion of Operation Dark Night, an investigation that uncovered an organized prostitution ring operating throughout the southeast United States.

He also discussed the victim-centered approach taken by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), placing their identification, rescue and stabilization on equal value with the apprehension and prosecution of the trafficker.

"I think we will all agree that human trafficking provokes our justifiable and righteous anger," said Morton. "Let's bring our outrage to the offense."

Friday, February 1, 2013

Minnesota Resident Sentenced for Transporting Illegal Aliens

A southern Minnesota man was sentenced in federal court Thursday, January 31, 2013, for transporting illegal aliens.

The sentence resulted from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with the St. Peter Police Department, the Nicollet County Sheriff's Office, the LeSueur County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

John Arrazolo, 44 of St. Peter, Minn., was sentenced to three years probation, six months home confinement, and a $2,000 fine on one count of transporting illegal aliens. Arrazolo was indicted on April 16 and pleaded guilty Aug. 16.

"Those who transport or harbor illegal aliens require secrecy and often coercion to succeed," said Special Agent in Charge Michael Feinberg, of HSI St. Paul. "HSI works with our state and local law enforcement partners to bring justice to anyone who exploits others for illegal profit."

In his plea agreement, Arrazolo admitted that between October 2006 and October 2011, he transported two illegal aliens from Texas to Minnesota to work in his business.

Arrazolo's company, Poultry Service Management, provided manual labor to large corporate chicken farms in Minnesota and the surrounding area. The workers loaded chickens for shipping, vaccinated chickens, trimmed chicken beaks and provided other general labor as requested by the poultry producers.

Arrazolo admitted that one of the individuals he transported was a citizen of Mexico, and that he knew the individual was not a U.S. citizen when he transported him from Texas to Minnesota.