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October 4, 2023El Paso, TX, United StatesDocument and Benefit Fraud

Woman sentenced to 7 years for posing as immigration services employee following HSI El Paso investigation

EL PASO, Texas — A federal judge in El Paso sentenced a local woman Oct. 2 to 87 months in prison for wire fraud and impersonating a federal employee.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso special agents investigated the case.

According to court documents, Ana Maria Hernandez, 53, portrayed herself to be a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employee and defrauded numerous undocumented noncitizen victims and their family members by falsely representing that she would process their immigration applications for a substantial fee.

Hernandez’s victims provided her with the documentation required to file and adjust their immigration status. She was not a USCIS employee and never took any actions to adjust the victims’ statuses. The HSI investigation revealed that Hernandez had amassed thousands of dollars of unexplained wealth within the 18 months coinciding with her fraudulent activity.

Following her arrest on Jan. 23, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and HSI El Paso began receiving calls from dozens of potential victims in Hernandez’s fraud scheme.

Hernandez pleaded guilty in April to 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of impersonation. In addition to her 87 months of imprisonment, Hernandez was ordered to pay $123,275 in restitution and a money judgement order of $19,870.

“The message is clear — have no doubt. Individuals who impersonate a federal officer and exploit trusting individuals for their own personal gain, will be held accountable for their crimes,” said HSI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola. “HSI will leverage its investigative abilities in order to identify, arrest and prosecute these piranhas in society.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Aguayo prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat fraud in your community on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIElPaso.