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Document and Benefit Fraud
12/07/2011

Mississippi residents arrested in identity theft scheme

OXFORD, Miss. – Two Mexican nationals using false identities were arrested today in Coldwater, Miss., following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service.

Gloria Araceli Cortes, 36, a Mexican citizen, and Manuel Humberto Villas Alvidres, 44, a Mexican citizen with lawful permanent residency in the United States, are accused of knowingly and willfully using the identification of other individuals to obtain credit cards, bank loans and bank accounts. Cortes is also accused of using another's identity in applying for and obtaining a U.S. passport.

The 14-count indictment alleges that Cortes and Alvidres, as part of their scheme, obtained loans in excess of $127,000 and made purchases on credit cards while using the identification of individuals other than themselves.

If convicted on all counts, Cortes faces up to 229 years in prison and up to $8.5 million in fines; Alvidres faces up to 152 years in prison and up to $5 million dollars in fines. They each could be ordered to pay restitution to the victims of their crimes, as well as being required to forfeit any proceeds from the crimes.

"This case highlights Homeland Security Investigation's (HSI) commitment to working with other law enforcement partners to protect both the integrity of our immigration system and our national security," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New Orleans. "Document and benefit fraud pose serious threats to national security and public safety. These schemes create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice."

"The U.S. passport and visa are two of the most coveted travel documents in the world. There are American citizens and foreign nationals who fraudulently acquire passports and visas to engage in identity theft and other criminal activities. This case demonstrates Diplomatic Security's commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate these crimes and help bring these criminals to justice," said George Nutwell, special agent in charge of the Houston Field Office of the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service.

The U.S. Marshal's Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Desoto County Task Force, the Tate County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service assisted with the investigation and arrests.