LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated an investigation that lead to the guilty plea Wednesday of a south Texas man for his role in wire fraud and extortion under color of official right. The investigation was coordinated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) working jointly with ICE Office of Professional and Responsibility (OPR).
On Sept. 9, 2020, Rito Salomon Palacios, 51, from Laredo, pled guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana for wire fraud and extortion under color of official right.
According to court documents, Palacios masqueraded at varying times as an officer or employee of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an immigration officer or another federal officer or employee. At the plea Wednesday, the court also heard he delivered receipts in a document bearing the seal of the Department of Transportation.
Palacios defrauded and extorted members of the public who were not citizens or nationals of the United States. He took money or property by false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises to deliver immigration visas, permits or residency in the United States. As part of the scheme, Palacios utilized the internet to set appointments for his victims.
Palacios has admitted as part of the plea that he demanded and obtained more than $72,000 from the fraud and extortion scheme.
Judge Saldana will impose sentencing at a later day. At that time, Palacios faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas is prosecuting the case.