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FBI raids La Vernia business, confirms immigration scam
LA VERNIA -- Additional details have come to light about a Nov. 19 raid by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant on U.S. 87 here.
According to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 26 by FBI Special Agent John De Leon III in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Maria De Lourdes Montano-Vicencio and Yolanda Hernandez de Arteaga each are charged with wire fraud. If convicted, each woman faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
According to De Leon’s supporting affidavit, on or about Oct. 28, 2010, to on or about Dec. 28, 2012, Montano-Vicencio “did intentionally and knowingly devise, and intend to devise, a scheme and article to defraud” at least 18 illegal immigrants of cash proceeds. These individuals report being told by Arteaga that she could facilitate the procurement of official immigration status documents in exchange for a fee, through her relationship with “Sheila,” who worked for “Immigration.”
De Leon alleges that Arteaga has received $89,600 from her victims, while Montano-Vicencio has received $15,263. The two received additional funds via wire transfers facilitated by Western Union and Money Gram.
In addition to the FBI agents conducting a search warrant at the restaurant Nov. 19, they also searched Arteaga’s home. De Leon reported that additional information supporting the scheme was found -- including wire-transfer receipts, an original birth certificate belonging to a victim, and other documents. On that date, Arteaga was interviewed by agents from the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at which time she allegedly said there were approximately 60 victims -- 12 of whom are her relatives.
Based on telephone records and consensual recorded conversations, De Leon indicated that “in the conversations involving ‘Sheila’ and the victim immigrants, the voice is identical to” Montano-Vicencio.
Furthermore, as of Nov. 14, the scheme was ongoing, DeLeon reported.
U.S. District Court records indicate that federal Judge John W. Primomo issued a warrant Nov. 26 for Arteaga’s arrest and that she was taken into custody that day. Her first court appearance was Nov. 27, when Arteaga was appointed a public defender and her bond was set at $25,000.
Arteaga’s next court appearance is a preliminary hearing set for Dec. 10 before federal judge Henry J. Bemporad.
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