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Document and Benefit Fraud

3 sentenced for possessing, selling counterfeit identification documents

HOUSTON - Three Mexican nationals illegally in the United States were sentenced on Friday for possessing and selling counterfeit identification documents. U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle made the announcement; the case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Hector Calva Gomez, 37, Julio Martinez-Narvaez, 33, and Rodrigo Ramos-Rios, 24, were sentenced to prison terms Oct. 24 by U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller on various counts of conviction. Martinez-Narvaez and Ramos-Rios each pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud in connection with the possession with intent to transfer five or more false identification documents, and fraud in connection with unlawfully transferring false identification documents. Martinez also pleaded guilty to unlawfully re-entering the U.S. after being previously deported in 2002 and 2005 following his felony conviction. Gomez pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, and to fraud in connection with transferring five or more false identification documents.

At these sentencing hearings, U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller sentenced Gomez to 18 months in federal prison. Martinez-Narvaez was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. Ramos-Rios was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Judge Miller also ordered all three to serve a three-year term of supervised release after they complete their prison terms; no fines were imposed. There's no parole in the federal prison system. Since all three are illegally in the United States, they are also subject to deportation after they're released from prison.

The investigation leading to the charges and convictions of these defendants involved the controlled purchase of identification documents by a cooperating witness while under surveillance by investigating agents. On May 18, 2007, Gomez sold two counterfeit Texas Identification cards and two Social Security cards to a cooperating witness for $400. This transaction and the meeting between Gomez, Martinez and Ramos before the documents were delivered was observed by investigating agents.

On June 15, 2007, Gomez sold two counterfeit Texas Drivers' Licenses, two counterfeit Permanent Resident Cards, and two counterfeit Social Security Cards for $700 to the cooperating witness bearing the names and photographs provided by the witness. Before the transaction, the witness provided Gomez with photographs of two individuals and false identifying information. After this meeting, agents saw Gomez meet with Martinez at a nearby discount shoe store. Then Martinez was followed to a Houston apartment in a complex located on Crestdale Drive. About 30 minutes later, Martinez and Ramos left the complex together and drove to a doughnut shop where they met with Gomez. Surveillance agents saw Ramos hand documents to Gomez. Martinez and Ramos left and returned to the apartment complex. Gomez left the meeting and delivered the counterfeit documents to the cooperating witness. The documents bore the photograph and false identification provided by the cooperating witness.

On Aug. 28, 2007, Gomez was arrested possessing on his person or located inside his vehicle the following false identity documents: 13 Texas Drivers' Licenses, five Texas Identification cards, 21 Social Security cards, four Resident Alien cards, and 16 Permanent Resident cards. The following were also found in Gomez's vehicle: two digital Fuji film XD flash drives, one Olympus digital camera, and one Polaroid camera. Ramos and Martinez were arrested the following day. Ramos possessed a counterfeit Social Security card and a counterfeit Permanent Resident card. Martinez was arrested in the vicinity of a Crestdale Drive apartment complex. That same day, Aug. 29, 2007, FBI agents executed a search warrant at the Crestdale apartment leased by Martinez using an alias. In the apartment, agents found the following equipment and supplies: a desktop computer, two laptop computers, two digital storage devices (flash drives), 11 counterfeit identity documents, one printer/scanner, one laminator, one paper cutter, imaging software and numerous boxes of laminating paper, photography paper and cardstock. Several shredded counterfeit documents were found in the trash inside the apartment in addition to Ramos' personal belongings and photographs.

The indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by: U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Harris County Sheriff's Department and the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel C. Rodriguez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.