LOS ANGELES – The former chief of the National Police in Guatemala’s second-largest city was arrested Friday on visa fraud charges after he allegedly failed to disclose to U.S. immigration authorities that he had been charged with murdering two political activists in Guatemala.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, 77, of Fontana, who was previously the chief of the National Police in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, after Valiente was charged in a one-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury.
This case was investigated by HSI’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) and ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). HSI Attaché in Guatemala City and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate assisted in the investigation.
In late 1987, Valiente and others were charged in Guatemala with the kidnapping and murder of two people affiliated with the Agronomy Department at the Centro Universitario de Occidente in Quetzaltenango. Valiente was convicted twice, but both convictions – and two 30-year sentences – were overturned on appeals, and the matter was remanded to a trial court for further proceedings in 1993. An arrest warrant for Valiente was issued in July 1993, and it renewed twice, but the warrant was rescinded in 2015. It is unclear if charges remain pending against Valiente in Guatemala.
The indictment returned by the federal grand jury specifically alleges that Valiente entered the United States in April 2013 based on fraudulently obtained documents; Valiente allegedly failed to disclose that he had been arrested and tried for kidnapping and murder in Guatemala.
Valiente was arraigned on the indictment on Friday in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. If he were to be convicted of visa fraud, Valiente would face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Stacey R. Fernandez of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
The HRVWCC was established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 395 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 835 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 112 such individuals from the United States.
Currently, HSI has more than 130 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 74,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 234 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the ICE tip line at: 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.