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Document and Benefit Fraud
10/11/2016

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Fake tribal chief sentenced to nearly 3 years in federal prison for selling membership to non-recognized Native American tribe

Defendant stood up fake tribe to scam illegal immigrants

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A former Brownsville resident living in Waco, Texas, was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in federal prison for selling membership to a non-recognized Native American tribe.  

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.  This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service.  The following agencies assisted with this investigation:  U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, FBI and Brownsville Police Department.

Humberto Reveles, 61, was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen. Judge Hanen also ordered Reveles to serve three years of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay restitution of $198,795 to 144 victims of the scheme. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hanen noted this scheme was just as bad as coyotes smuggling people into the United States. He also noted this crime victimized individuals who least could afford it (undocumented aliens). Reveles pleaded guilty to the charges in March 2015.

"ICE Homeland Security Investigations will not tolerate actions that illegally circumvent lawful immigration processes," said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. "Schemes like the one Reveles fabricated create security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by criminals and others who pose a danger to our community. HSI and our law enforcement partners aggressively target those who conspire to corrupt the integrity of America's legal immigration system and put our nation's security at risk in the process."

According to court documents, Reveles admitted to selling membership in the Yamassee tribe as part of a scheme to defraud his customers. Reveles was the chief and later grand chief of the tribe. He claimed the tribal identification documents that he sold with tribe membership would allow tribe members to remain in the United States, prevent them from being deported, allow them to travel within and work in the country, despite not having a lawful immigration status.

Reveles opened an office where he met with prospective tribe members in addition to holding informational meetings. Prospective tribe members paid Reveles or his employees and were to receive tribal naturalization certificates, tribal identification cards and tribal drivers' licenses. The documents were to be presented in support of the false immigration claims underlying the scheme.

The Yamassee tribe is not a federally recognized Native American tribe, and is not recognized by the U.S. Department of State.

Reveles was previously released on bond and will remain on bond until he has to voluntarily surrender to a Bureau of Prisons facility in December 2016.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/13/2016