Inocente Orlando Montano, 70, of Everett, Mass., pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to three counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury. Had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would have proved that Montano, a citizen of El Salvador, served as an officer in the military of El Salvador for 30 years, including during the period of El Salvador's civil war, from 1979 through 1991.
Montano also served as El Salvador's vice minister for public security from 1989 to 1992. The government alleges that the Salvadoran military committed various human rights violations during the civil war, including torture, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings and disappearances according to several reports published in the early 1990s. These reports allege that certain human rights abuses were committed by troops directly under Montano's command. In 1994, Montano retired from the military, and at some point thereafter left El Salvador, eventually coming to Massachusetts.
In or about 2002, Montano was present in the United States and, on several occasions thereafter, applied for and received immigration benefits which allowed him to remain in the United States temporarily.
In 2007, 2008 and 2010, Montano submitted benefit applications in which he falsely stated that he had entered the United States on June 30, 2000, a date which would have precluded him from receiving these benefits. In fact, Montano entered the United States in July 2001. Montano falsely stated his date of entry with the intent to deceive U.S. authorities because he knew that, if he had stated the correct entry date, he would have been ineligible for immigration benefits.
"Today's guilty plea reinforces our message to those who violate human rights worldwide: the United States will not turn a blind eye to your foreign crimes if you seek to hide here," said ICE Director John Morton. "ICE's Homeland Security Investigations will continue to investigate alleged human rights violators like Montano who have committed heinous acts only to seek haven here. The United States has always welcomed those who flee from persecution and oppression, but ICE will not allow our shores to be a place of refuge for those who persecute and oppress others."
Judge Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Dec. 18.
Montano faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the three counts of making false statements on an immigration application and a maximum of five years in prison on each of the three counts of perjury. All charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count, as well as deportation after serving the sentence the court imposes.
ICE's 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 ICE's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. Tips may be provided anonymously.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 225 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 540 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 140 active investigations and ICE is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from nearly 95 different countries.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John A. Capin, District of Massachusetts, on behalf of the U.S. government.