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Document and Benefit Fraud

2 Corpus Christi pizzeria employees plead guilty to document fraud

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two former employees of a local pizzeria pleaded guilty Thursday to immigration document fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Former kitchen manager Daniel Nieto-Ibarra, and a former pizzeria cook, Erika Yazmin Perez-Lara, both 26 and from Corpus Christi, pleaded guilty at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Jan. 5. Nieto-Ibarra and Perez-Lara admitted they prepared and delivered fraudulent documents to a government confidential informant who they believed to be a Mexican national seeking illegal employment at the pizzeria. Grimaldi's Pizzeria is located in the La Palmera Mall in Corpus Christi.

Indictments were returned in November 2011 following an investigation by ICE HSI. The assistant kitchen manager, Enrique Lopez-Miranda, 26, and another cook, Marco Antonio Sandoval-Romo, 42, both of Corpus Christi, were charged separately with fraudulently using a Social Security number. Their cases are still pending; they are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Nieto-Ibarra and Perez-Lara were both remanded into federal custody following their respective guilty pleas where they will remain pending their sentencing hearings on April 3. At that time, both face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Following any awarded prison sentence, each may additionally be assessed a period of up to three years of supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert D. Thorpe Jr. and Hugo R. Martinez, southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.