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Document and Benefit Fraud
04/17/2013

HSI arrests 20 Cuban imposters seeking immigration benefits

MIAMI — Twenty individuals were arrested Tuesday and Wednesday in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for attempting to defraud immigration authorities by posing as Cuban citizens. The arrests resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service.

Those arrested include:

  • Miriam Licea, 57, of Miami, was charged in a four-count indictment with two counts of helping two people make fraudulent applications for immigration benefits based upon false claims of Cuban birth. This indictment is related to a prior case, in which the defendant ultimately confessed to paying $15,000 for a fraudulent Cuban birth certificate. Licea is also charged with two counts of knowingly encouraging and inducing two aliens to reside in the United States illegally.
  • Luis Enrique Legon Mena, 44, of Miramar, was charged in a five-count indictment with one count of conspiring to encourage aliens to reside in the United States illegally and four counts of knowingly encouraging and inducing four aliens to reside in the United States illegally.
  • Marcos Erwin Hes Villacis, 50, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Pablo Nunez, 42, of Miami Beach, was charged in a one-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he is Cuban.
  • Ana Arias, 31, of Naples, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the fictitious claim that she is Cuban.
  • Gerardo Mendez, 37, of Miami, was charged in a two count indictment with seeking to naturalize fraudulently based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Maryori Velazquez-Guevara, 44, of Davie, was charged in a two-count indictment with seeking to naturalize fraudulently based on the false claim that she was born in Cuba.
  • Jose Ramirez, 45, of Sunrise, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Eduardo Gomez, 37, of Miami Beach, was charged in a one-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he is Cuban.
  • Roberto Guzman, 46, of Miami, was charged in a one-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the phony claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Carlos Zerpa Rodriguez, 33, of North Miami, was charged in a two-count information with knowingly attempting to obtain citizenship unlawfully and submitting a fraudulent application for naturalization. The information alleges that the defendant submitted fraudulent applications based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Ferdinando Enrique Bello, 52, of Jacksonville, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the phony claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Santiago Ruben Gonzalez, 45, of Jacksonville, was charged in a two-count indictment with attempting to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fraudulent claim that he is Cuban.
  • Yohel Golsztayn, 29, of Hollywood, is charged in a one-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence. The information alleges that the application was based on the false claim that his mother was born in Cuba.
  • Paola Lourdes Bre, 37, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that she was born in Cuba.
  • Sylvia Cruz Chicoma, 56, of Miami, was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that she was born in Cuba.
  • Maura Rosario Roca Hurtado, 46, of Naples, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence. The indictment alleges that her application was based on the false claim that her mother was born in Cuba.
  • Alexandra Magdalena Canelon, 31, of Doral, is charged in a four-count indictment with submitting fraudulent applications for legal permanent residence on two separate dates. The indictment alleges that, each time, she premised her application on the false claim that her mother was born in Cuba.
  • Pablo Muro, 46, of Miami was charged in a two-count information with submitting a fraudulent application for legal permanent residence based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.
  • Francisco Ramirez, 45, of Sunrise, was charged in a two-count indictment with submitting a fraudulent application for citizenship based on the false claim that he was born in Cuba.

"These individuals came here seeking the freedom and benefits this country provides to Cuban nationals. The operation identified and addressed vulnerabilities in the application process," said Alysa Erichs, special agent in charge of HSI Miami. "These arrests by HSI should send a clear message that we will target anyone who tries to obtain immigration benefits fraudulently."

"USCIS is committed to ensuring the integrity of our nation's immigration system by ensuring that only fully qualified individuals receive benefits," said Linda Swacina, District Director for Miami and the Caribbean. "We evaluate cases individually based on the law and the facts and will refer to USCIS' Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) or other appropriate authorities any case suspected of fraud or unlawful conduct."

"This integrated effort is an example of the successful partnership between federal agencies to detect and interrupt organizations that through fraudulent activity exploit the process to obtain immigration benefits," said Vernon Foret, Director Field Operations Miami, Customs Border Protection.

"These charges send a strong message: Diplomatic Security and our law enforcement partners are committed to making sure those who commit document fraud face consequences for their criminal actions," said Wendy Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, DSS. "Diplomatic Security's strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice."

The arrests are part of Operation Havana Gateway, a response to a rising trend of immigration fraud based upon false claims to Cuban birth and citizenship. Previous investigations and convictions stemming from Operation Havana Gateway have revealed that document vendors create and sell fraudulent and fictitious Cuban birth certificates for thousands of dollars to individuals in need of immigration benefits. Subsequently, those individuals submit fraudulent applications for immigration benefits based upon a fictitious claim of Cuban birth or citizenship supported by a phony Cuban birth certificate.