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Worksite Enforcement
09/27/2012

9 South Dakota residents indicted for conspiracy to defraud US, harboring aliens

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Nine people from Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills community were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to harbor aliens and harboring aliens. Four of the nine individuals are charged with an additional count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The indictments resulted from a criminal investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in partnership with the following agencies: U.S. Forest Service, Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff's Office, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General, Custer County Police Department, U.S. Department of Labor and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

"Today's law enforcement operation sends a strong message that HSI and our law enforcement partners are ever vigilant against those seeking to manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors," said Michael Feinberg, special agent in charge of HSI St. Paul, which covers South Dakota. "The combined resources of a joint federal, state and local law enforcement operation present a formidable obstacle to any criminal enterprise seeking to harm hard-working citizens and American business interests.

The following indictments have been handed down:

  • Angel Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of Munoz Logging and Construction Company, Rapid City, South Dakota – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Barbara Munoz, owner and operator of Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Christina Pourier, bookkeeper of Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Mario Rangel, manager for Munoz Logging and Construction Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Aurelio Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of the Black Hills Thinning Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Miguel Soto, foreman for the Black Hills Thinning Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Rogelio Escalante, owner and operator of the Escalante Logging Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Sergio Munoz-Escalante, owner and operator of the SM Logging Company – charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.
  • Benjamin Munoz-Botello, owner and operator of Benja's Mexican Store, a grocery and licensed money-transmitting and check-cashing business – charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens and one count of harboring aliens.

Seven of those indicted were arrested Sept. 27.

"The United States Attorney's Office is committed to enforcing our nation's immigration laws. This includes limiting the demand for undocumented workers by prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal workers," said Johnson.

The alleged fraud is in connection with contracts entered into with the U.S. Forest Service. Conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both; three years' supervised release (a violation of condition of release could result in two years' additional incarceration on any such violation); a $100 assessment fee; and restitution.

Conspiracy to harbor aliens and harboring aliens is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both; three years' supervised release (a violation of condition of release could result in two years' additional incarceration on any such violation); a $100 assessment fee; and restitution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and all of the individuals named in the indictment are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty.