Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03032124 (posted Mar. 21, 2003)"
U.S. Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 20, 2003
FORMER U.S. CONSULATE EMPLOYEES
PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT VISA FRAUD
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the
Criminal Division and United States Attorney Michael Shelby of the Southern
District of Texas announced today that four former employees at the U.S.
Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit
The four defendants – former visa adjudicator Miguel Partida and former visa
clerks Sergio Genaro Ochoa-Alarcon, Benjamin Antonio Ayala-Morales, and Ramon
Alberto Torres-Galvan – entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Court
Judge Keith P. Ellison today at federal court in Laredo, Texas. They had been
charged in one-count criminal informations with conspiracy to sell visas.
The four defendants face a maximum five years in prison as a result of their
guilty pleas. Sentencing will be determined at a later date. Partida, 41, was
arrested Feb. 5, 2003, but has been released on bail. Ochoa-Alarcon, 31,
Ayala-Morales, 34, and Torres-Galvan, 34, have been in custody since their
arrests on Jan. 30, 2003. Sentencing for all four defendants is scheduled for
June 12, 2003.
The guilty pleas arose from a criminal investigation that began approximately
seven months ago, and ultimately resulted in the closure of the U.S. Consulate
office in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on Jan. 29, 2003. As part of a plea agreement,
the defendants are cooperating with an ongoing criminal investigation.
According to documents filed at federal court in the Laredo Division of the
Southern District of Texas, federal agents initiated the investigation after
allegations that consulate employees were involved in a scheme to provide visas
and border crossing cards in exchange for money. The scheme involved people
buying visas without required interviews, and without the required determination
that a person was qualified for a visas. The duties of the four men who pleaded
guilty included interviewing applicants for U.S. visas, reviewing the
applications, and approving non-immigrant visas for travel to the United States.
"Today's pleas are especially critical in light of our efforts to secure our
borders and protect the national security," said Assistant Attorney General
Michael Chertoff. "Those who sell entry to the United States for their own
profit will be caught and punished."
The investigation into visa fraud at the Nuevo Laredo Consulate is being
conducted by Special Agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, United States
Department of State, and Special Agents of the newly created Bureau of
Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security. The
criminal case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Peter Zeidenberg of the
Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section; Jim Oliver
of the Criminal Division's Domestic Security Section; and Assistant United
States Attorney Dixie Morrow of the Laredo Division office of the United States
Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.