Convicted child molester sentenced for immigration fraud, ordered removed from US
RALEIGH, N.C. — On March 23, Chief United States District Judge Richard E. Myers II sentenced Manuel Alejandro Vitela-Romero, 36, a citizen of Mexico residing in Johnston County, to time served plus one year of supervised release. The sentence follows Vitela-Romero’s guilty plea to immigration fraud. Vitela-Romero was also judicially ordered removed from the United States.
The case was prosecuted pursuant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Operation False Haven. Operation False Haven is an ongoing initiative with Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force and the U.S. attorney’s office that identifies and prosecutes child molesters and other egregious felons who were convicted of prior crimes after petitioning for immigration benefits.
According to court records, on March 23, 2019, Vitela-Romero knowingly made a materially false statement on an application for an immigration benefit in response to the question, “Have you ever … engaged in [a]ny kind of sexual contact or relations with any person who was being forced or threatened?” He answered “No.”
Contrary to Vitela-Romero’s statement, he had taken indecent liberties with a 13-year-old girl on Aug. 8, 2018, and was convicted of the crime Nov. 8, 2022, in the Superior Court of North Carolina in Johnston County. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of between 16 and 29 months and ordered to register as a sex offender.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Michael Easley made the announcement. ERO and HSI officials assigned to the Document Benefit Fraud Task Force investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich prosecuted the case.
ERO will seek Vitela-Romero’s removal from the U.S. following time served associated with his recent conviction.
Since 2019, Operation False Haven has resulted in 56 criminal cases, 26 civil cases, 21 convictions, 15 judicial revocations of citizenship, and seven judicial removal orders against defendants convicted of crimes involving serial rape, child molestation, incest, child pornography, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, tax fraud, prescription fraud, embezzlement, aggravated identity theft and elder abuse.
As one of ICE’s three operational directorates, ERO is the principal federal law enforcement authority in charge of domestic immigration enforcement. ERO’s mission is to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of U.S. communities and the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and its primary areas of focus are interior enforcement operations, management of the agency’s detained and non-detained populations, and repatriation of noncitizens who have received final orders of removal. ERO’s workforce consists of more than 7,700 law enforcement and non-law enforcement support personnel across 25 domestic field offices and 208 locations nationwide, 30 overseas postings, and multiple temporary duty travel assignments along the border.
For more news and information on how ERO Atlanta carries out its immigration enforcement mission in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, follow us on Twitter @EROAtlanta.