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Document and Benefit Fraud

10 plead guilty to identity theft

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A Mexican citizen pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and social security fraud. The guilty plea, resulting from a long-term fraudulent document manufacturing investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), represents the tenth member of this criminal organization to be convicted.

Leticia Rodriguez, 40, of Mexico, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett in federal district court in Hattiesburg, Miss. Rodriguez and nine co-defendants were arrested on Aug. 9 for operating a fraudulent document manufacturing and distribution network based in Laurel, Miss. and Mobile, Ala. The HSI investigation revealed that organization members were creating counterfeit identification documents and Social Security cards using stolen identities. Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The other nine co-defendants previously entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing, scheduled for April 26. The co-defendants are: Julieta Rivera Lopez, 37; Jose Acencio-Sanchez, 23; Enrique Martinez Lopez, 49; Ricardo Obispo-Martinez, 22; Arturo Apodaca Tejeda, 40; Benlly Hernandez-Cordova, 33; Pastor Quihua-Gonzalez, 25; Noe Ortega Bravo, 26, all of Mexico; and Ricardo Rodriguez, 19, a U.S. citizen.

"This investigation exemplifies HSI's commitment to ensuring the integrity of the nation's immigration system," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "Our HSI special agents relentlessly detect and investigate anyone who attempts to fraudulently obtain identification documents." Parmer oversees HSI activities in Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas.

"Identity theft is a major problem that can adversely affect victims in a significant way.  We will continue to aggressively pursue those who prey on innocent victims and try to use the victims' identity for their personal gain," said U.S. Attorney John Dowdy.

Assistant United States Attorney Annette Williams prosecuted the case.