EL PASO, Texas — Two sisters from Mexico, who are suspected of lying on their U.S. passport applications, are in federal custody after special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and other agencies arrested them Monday.
Ruth Saenz, 30, of Sunland Park, N.M., and Janeth Flores, 33, of the 1700 block of Lee Treviño Drive, are charged with making a false statement in applications for passports. They are both scheduled to have their detention hearings May 9 in federal court.
According to the joint-investigation by HSI El Paso and the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, Saenz and Flores falsely declared under oath, and under penalty of perjury before the passport acceptance clerk, that they were U.S. citizens. Also, both falsely declared they had never used or gone by another name. However, both sisters had used the last name of Oloño Mendoza. Only U.S. citizens may apply for U.S. passports.
In 1999, the sisters applied for and were issued B1/B2 non-immigrant U.S. visas under the names of Ruth Oloño Mendoza and Janeth Oloño Mendoza by the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, according to a criminal complaint.
Their sister, Andrea Del Mercado, 34, of Chaparral, N.M., also pleaded guilty May 2 to the same charge. Her sentencing date has not been set. She faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison, as do Saenz and Flores, if convicted.
Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, referred to this case as a true team effort to ensure these immigration law violators are brought to justice. "Crimes such as passport fraud threaten U.S. national security, especially when the U.S. passport is one of the most coveted travel documents in the world.
"The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to investigate allegations of crime related to passport and visa fraud, and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice," said George Nutwell, special agent in charge, Houston Field Office, U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service. "The Diplomatic Security Service's strong relationship with our law enforcement partners continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Office of Fraud and Detection and National Security (FDNS), and the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) also participated in this investigation.