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Document and Benefit Fraud

Former notary public sentenced to prison for bribing county clerks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Amanda Cruz, 35, a former notary public, was sentenced Tuesday for her role in bribing two county clerks to obtain license tags and registrations for illegal aliens, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

U.S. District Judge Jon Phipps McCalla sentenced Cruz to 30 months incarceration and two years of supervised release. The court also ordered Cruz to formally resign as a notary public and turn her stamps and seals over to the U.S. District Court Clerk's Office within seven days.

On July 21, 2009 Cruz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Cruz admitted she operated a business that prepared false and fraudulent documents to help illegal aliens obtain license tags for motor vehicles. This allowed the aliens to avoid being stopped for traffic violations or arrested and having their status in the United States questioned. Cruz also admitted that to further the scheme she regularly paid bribes to two different employees of the Shelby County Clerk's Office to ignore the obvious defects in the documents and to ignore the clerk's office rules and regulations in the issuance of the license tags.

"The transportation and harboring of illegal aliens are serious crimes that we will not tolerate," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New Orleans. "ICE HSI devotes significant resources to identify and bring to justice the criminals involved in transporting and harboring illegal aliens and we are committed to shutting down all vulnerabilities in our immigration system."

"The successful outcome of this investigation is another example of local and federal law enforcement working together," said Amy S. Hess, special agent in charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI. "Those who abuse legitimate government services for personal gain will be held accountable for their crimes."

Edward L. Stanton, III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee stated, "The conspiracy to bribe public officials to obtain false documents is a serious matter that has a corrosive effect on the operation of government and the public's trust in their government. Because of this the U.S. Attorney's Office will prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent of the law."

"Public corruption drains our resources and destroys the confidence of our citizens. The Memphis Police Department will continue to share information with all agencies - local, state and federal - in order to root out every source of public corruption. This individual not only preyed on vulnerable human beings seeking refuge in our community. She bribed government employees in order to entice them into supporting her scheme. Those who attempt to entice and bribe public servants should be held to the same level of accountability as those employees who make the decision to betray the public trust," said Larry A. Godwin, director of the Memphis Police Department.

U.S. Attorney Stanton commended ICE Special Agent Scott Partin and FBI Special Agent Robert Reich for the excellent and dedicated work on a complicated and sensitive investigation.