46 Arrested and Prosecuted at California Ports of Entry for Passport and Visa Fraud
A joint enforcement initiative to stem passport and visa fraud at California border ports of entry (San Diego and Imperial Counties) launched by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of 46 individuals for felonies related to the use of false passports and visas.
During the one-week operation, from February 26 to March 5, 2009, 35 cases of passport fraud and 11 cases of visa fraud were accepted for prosecution. Additionally, 27 individuals fraudulently using United States passports were returned to Mexico in lieu of prosecution.
Some of the notable cases included:
Donald Gary Keene, 32, and Cale Marie Bovee, 33. Keene and Bovee, United States citizens, are alleged to have used fraudulent United States passports in an attempt to smuggle eight undocumented aliens in a truck through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. According to court records, both suspects had prior criminal histories and are currently being charged with Title 18, United States Code, Section 1544, Misuse of a Passport, and Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324, Alien Smuggling.
Eudon Gomez Martinez, 38. Gomez Martinez, a Mexican citizen, is accused of using a fraudulently obtained Border Crossing Card (DSP-150) in an attempt to cross into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. He had been deported twice previously from the United States and charged twice for driving under the influence, including a conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter in 1993 for an incident in which three persons were killed. He is being charged with Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546, Visa Fraud.
Javier Vicente Robledo, 29. Robledo, a Mexican citizen, is charged with presenting a fraudulently obtained United States passport in order to enter the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. His previous criminal convictions include assault with a firearm, a felony conviction for possession of controlled substances, and receiving stolen property. Robledo is being charged with Title 18, United States Code, Section 1544, Misuse of a Passport.
Josue Benjamin Martinez-Andrade, 21. Martinez-Andrade, a Mexican citizen, is charged with presenting a stolen U.S. passport at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in order to enter the United States illegally. His criminal record includes previous drug convictions and gang activity; he is being charged with Title 18, United States Code, Section 1544, Misuse of a Passport.
Juan Roberto Quintana-Zavala, 45. Quintana Zavala, a Mexican citizen, is charged with using an altered Mexican passport with a counterfeit United States Visa in an attempt to enter the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. He has past criminal convictions for drug trafficking; he is being charged with Title, 18, United States Code, Section 1544, Misuse of a Passport.
The upcoming Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) mandates that by June 1, all U.S. and Canadian citizens entering the United States at its ports of entry must produce a secure travel document such as a passport, passport card, trusted traveler program document, or an enhanced driver’s license from a participating state or province. Under WHTI, CBP is able to run automated checks against law enforcement databases more easily. CBP will also be able to validate the travel documents against information from their issuing agency, thereby substantially increasing the ability to identify fraudulent documents and the fraudulent use of legitimate documents.
U.S. travel documents have a high value for criminals and smugglers. This fact prompted the joint enforcement initiative, which included embedding seven times the number of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents normally stationed at border crossings. It also involved Diplomatic Security investigative agents from Mexico working with the ports’ criminal enforcement units in a multifaceted approach to protect the integrity of U.S. travel documents and to ferret out fraudulent use."CBP, DSS, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office took proactive steps to ensure the safety of the public and its travel documents prior to the WHTI’s full implementation," said Todd Hoffman, acting director of CBP field operations in San Diego. "Since CBP has stopped accepting oral claims of U.S. citizenship alone when travelers enter our nation, we have observed increased illicit use of U.S. passports and visas by smugglers. We intend to vigorously prosecute those we apprehend with fraudulent documents."
Early analysis indicates that just 40 percent of the 62 fraudulently used U.S. passports seized had been reported lost or stolen by their legitimate bearer to the U.S. Department of State, which issues the documents.
"This investigative initiative shows the Department of State's commitment to ensure the integrity of the U.S. passport and visa, the most sought after travel documents in the world,” said Bruce T. Mills, the special agent-in-charge of the Diplomatic Security Service’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The Diplomatic Security Service will continue to pursue joint partnerships like this with other federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities to counter this growing threat to the homeland."
The agencies look forward to conducting regular joint enforcement initiatives in the future. These initiatives are important to maintain control and security at the international border.
U.S. citizens or legitimate document holders will be prosecuted in cases where it has been found they sold or made their documents available for others to use, officials said.
United States Attorney Karen P. Hewitt said, “Given the high volume of traffic at the international ports of entry in California, the use of false or stolen documents to enter the United States represents a national security issue. Passport fraud is a serious felony and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting those who present false or stolen passports.”
Those convicted of passport and visa fraud face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. Offenders also may be charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years to be served consecutively with the underlying offense.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of the nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is the U.S. Department of State’s law enforcement and security arm. The special agents, engineers, and security professionals of the Bureau are responsible for the security of 285 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. In the United States, Diplomatic Security personnel protect the U.S. Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the United States, investigate passport and visa fraud, and conduct personnel security investigations. In 2008, DS participated in 2,487 arrests globally, primarily for passport and visa fraud, including 586 arrests overseas in cooperation with foreign police. Read more in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa and Passport Security Strategic Plan at: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/79895.htm. Additional information about the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security may be obtained at www.state.gov/m/ds
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
Sarah Rosetti: 571-345-2507
Customs and Border Patrol
Vincent Bond: 619-744-5224
Department of Justice
Debra Hartman: 619-557-5275