BOISE, Idaho – An Idaho woman was sentenced Thursday to 12 months and one day in federal prison for mail fraud and misuse of U.S. government seals as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Crystal Tijerina, 29, of Caldwell, Idaho, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following her prison term. Tijerina pleaded guilty to the charges July 28. During her plea, she admitted that between June 2009 and May 2010, she devised a scheme to defraud victims by obtaining money by materially false and fraudulent pretenses through the use of the U.S. mail.
Tijerina operated "Soluciones Economicas," a business which purported to assist aliens with filing immigration paperwork. Tijerina admitted to having accepted money for fraudulent services, and fines and fees purportedly owed to the U.S. government. Tijerina admitted that, as part of the fraud scheme, she created counterfeit documents containing U.S. government seals and sent them to the victims through the U.S. mail. As part of the plea agreement, Tijerina agreed to pay restitution to the victims.
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge said at sentencing that "[Tijerina's] crime took advantage of vulnerable individuals who were here illegally and therefore unlikely to turn to law enforcement."
"Fraud schemes like this not only victimize the most vulnerable in our society, they also potentially undermine the integrity of our legal immigration system," said Leigh Winchell, the special agent in charge who oversees ICE Homeland Security Investigation's enforcement activities in Idaho. "As this case shows, ICE Homeland Security Investigations will move aggressively to identify and prosecute those who engage in fraud and corrupt the immigration process for profit."
In addition to ICE HSI, the case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.