Two members of a ring that sold fake Cuban birth certificates to undocumented immigrants, who then posed as Cuban refugees and applied for green cards, were sentenced to prison Thursday in Miami federal court.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced Nelson Daniel Silvestri Soutto to one year in prison and three years under supervised release, including nine months of house arrest. Amelia Osorio was sentenced to four months in prison and two years of supervised release, including 11 months of house arrest.
Altonaga also ordered Silvestri to surrender to immigration authorities for deportation to his native Uruguay once he has served his sentence.
Because Osorio was the only defendant free on bond, Altonaga ordered her to surrender to prison authorities to begin serving her sentence Feb. 1. Osorio, a Cuban citizen, could also be placed in deportation proceedings, but Cubans are generally not deported.
Osorio and Silvestri are the second and third defendants in the case to be sentenced. The first was Silvestri’s wife, Laura María Ponce Santos, who was sentenced earlier this year to six months in prison plus two years of supervised release — including nine months under house arrest. She also faces deportation to Uruguay.
Ponce, Silvestri and Osorio were residents of Naples. The alleged leader of the group, Fidel Morejón, lived in Kissimmee. Morejón, who is Cuban, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 28. Like the others, he pleaded guilty.
Hugo Rodríguez, Morejón’s attorney, said his client might get a tougher sentence.
“The government alleges that Mr. Morejón was the originator of the false-document fraud,” Rodriguez said. “As such, in all likelihood he will receive a higher sentence than the others.”
Attorneys for the other defendants declined to comment or did not return calls.
Under the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966, Cubans who arrive in the United States without visas can stay in the country and apply for residency after a year and one day. To get a green card, Cuban migrants must show proof of Cuban citizenship.
The ring’s clients were of various nationalities, including Argentines, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Mexicans, Peruvians, Salvadorans and Venezuelans.
One of the clients, identified in court records only as J.R., cooperated with investigators and introduced Morejón to an undercover agent who wanted to buy a Cuban birth certificate.
Court documents include transcripts of some of the conversations between Morejón, J.R. and the undercover agent, identified as Rolando.
In one of the transcripts, Morejón said that for the fraud to be successful, Rolando and J.R. would be taken to the Florida Keys and left there as newly arrived rafters. Morejón told them that when the immigration officials picked them up they had to say they were Cubans and know the details of their birth certificates by heart.
In a secretly taped conversation, Morejón advised them on how to respond to questions, but J.R. stumbled when he tried to remember where he was born in Cuba.
“So, if I tell you: ‘Where were you born?’ At this moment you have your [birth certificate]. Where were you born?” asks Morejón, according to the tape’s transcript.
“I was born in Havana . . . no, in Guinness, Guinness, Cuba,” replied J.R., referring to the town of Guines, 30 miles southeast of Havana.