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Document and Benefit Fraud

Missouri women sentenced for $5 million fraudulent document conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two suburban Kansas City women, and four co-defendants, were sentenced in federal court this week for their roles in a $5 million conspiracy that used a state licensing office to provide more than 3,500 fraudulent documents to illegal aliens across the nation.

This sentencing resulted from an extensive criminal investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with the following agencies: U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA OIG); the Missouri State Highway Patrol; the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau; the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department; and the Buchanan and Platte County sheriff’s departments.

Sherri E. Gutierrez, 46, of St. Joseph, Mo., and Brenda De La Cruz, 33, of San Antonio, Texas, were sentenced in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner. Gutierrez was sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison. De La Cruz was sentenced to four years in prison. Gutierrez’s daughter, Shayna R. Vanvacter, 27, also of St. Joseph, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison.

Three additional co-defendants were also sentenced Tuesday:

  • Elder Enrique Ordonez-Chanas, 32, aka "Flaco," a citizen of Guatemala who is illegally in the U.S. and was living in Carthage, Mo., was sentenced to 61 months in prison.
  • Luis Adalberto Felipe-Lopez, 30, a citizen of Guatemala who is illegally in the U.S. and was living in Mt. Olive, N.C., was sentenced to 48 months in prison.
  • Rafael Hernandez-Ortiz, 32, aka "Hugo," a citizen of Mexico who is illegally in the U.S. and was living in Owatonna, Minn., was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole.

It is estimated that more than 3,500 licenses were issued to illegal aliens by the Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph. Conspirators helped illegal aliens obtain birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of other people. These identity documents were used to obtain either a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license at the St. Joseph license office. The state licenses could then be used by the illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the United States, to unlawfully obtain employment and for other illegal purposes.

The illegal aliens were usually charged between $1,500 and $1,600 for the various documents. It is estimated that more than $5.25 million in gross proceeds were paid by illegal aliens to members of this conspiracy.

Sixteen defendants have been sentenced; two defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.