El Paso, Texas. – The general manager of a local fast-food restaurant is in federal custody after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested him Dec. 19 for illegally using someone else's immigration documents and unlawfully re-entering the United States after being previously deported.
Esteban Santos Gutierrez-Pineda, 36, of the 3300 block of Taylor Avenue, is charged with fraud and misusing visas, permits and other documents, and illegal re-entry after deportation. A federal magistrate on Dec. 20 ordered that he be held without bond pending trial.
According to court documents, Gutierrez-Pineda illegally purchased another person's legitimate Social Security and resident alien identity cards. Using these documents, he then allegedly unlawfully applied for employment. Gutierrez-Pineda completed a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employment eligibility verification form I-9 with someone else's information to get a job at a northeast El Paso fast-food restaurant.
In March 1997, Gutierrez-Pineda was arrested and convicted in California for transporting heroin. He was then deported in November 2006.
According to an investigation by ICE HSI's Public Safety Group in El Paso, Gutierrez-Pineda purchased the Social Security and resident alien cards in California for about $80.
"Assuming someone else's identity is a serious federal crime," said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in El Paso. "Fraudulent IDs make our country vulnerable to criminals and other public-safety threats."
Ulrich further stated that a known vulnerability to homeland security is the presence of illegal workers who gain employment by fraudulent means, including using false documents, completing fraudulent benefit applications and identity theft.
Gutierrez-Pineda's preliminary and detention hearing is set for Dec. 22 in federal court.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Once he completes any awarded prison sentence, he will be turned over to ICE custody to be placed in deportation proceedings.
Employers are encouraged to join ICE's IMAGE program. IMAGE, which was initiated in 2006, helps employers develop a more secure and stable workforce and enhance awareness about fraudulent documents through education and training. By voluntarily participating in the program, employers can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. ICE IMAGE coordinators train employers free of charge on the Employment Verification Form I-9, proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
E-Verify is administered by USCIS. Through this program, employers can verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This Internet-based system is available in all 50 states and is free to employers. It provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration records.
Local employers may contact the IMAGE coordinator at (915) 231-3298 for more information.