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Document and Benefit Fraud

New Jersey man pleads guilty to impersonating immigration official in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man who pleaded guilty less than a year ago to posing as an immigration official in New Jersey has now pleaded guilty to committing the same crime in Jacksonville, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Michael Ruiz, 46, of Newark, N.J., pleaded guilty in New Jersey federal court on May 10 to a three-count indictment on federal fraud charges originating out of the Middle District of Florida, for impersonating an immigration official in order to defraud immigrants in Jacksonville of approximately $62,000.

"Impersonating a federal agent or officer is a serious crime," said Susan McCormick, ICE special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations overseeing Jacksonville. "People who abuse the public's trust for their own personal gain will be held accountable for their actions."

Ruiz had previously pleaded guilty on Oct. 6, 2009, to a mail fraud charge related to a three-year scheme where he defrauded more than 20 immigrants in New Jersey of more than $150,000.

Ruiz admitted that he relocated from New Jersey to Jacksonville in late 2007, where he posed as an immigration official in order to defraud immigrants of money.

In November 2008, the defendant approached a victim at his business in Jacksonville and offered to assist with an immigration matter. When the victim resisted the offer, Ruiz threatened to derail the victim's pending naturalization proceeding. The victim them complied and paid Ruiz the money he demanded.

Ruiz also admitted that in December 2008, he demanded money from two more victims in Jacksonville in exchange for help with a visa application.

In January 2009, in Orange Park, Fla., Ruiz demanded and received money from two additional victims in exchange for a promise to help them with their relative's immigration problems.

According to Ruiz, he victimized these and other Floridians for a total loss of roughly $62,000.

Ruiz is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 19. He faces three years in prison on each of the counts to which he pleaded for his crimes in Florida, and 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charge to which he previously pleaded guilty. He also faces, for each count, a maximum fine of the greatest of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss caused by his offense.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott B. McBride of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division, District of New Jersey.