Crime

Venezuelan man sentenced in immigration scam

 

achardy@elNuevoHerald.com

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga has sentenced a Venezuelan man to 45 months in prison and one year supervised release after he pleaded guilty to leading a ring that sold fake U.S. residence stamps to undocumented immigrants so they could obtain Florida driver’s licenses.

Isaac de Jesus Carrasco, along with two alleged accomplices, sold the fake stamps to at least 110 people over more than 2 ½ years, earning more than $250,000, according to federal court records.

Only U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and other foreign nationals authorized to be in the country are entitled to Florida driver’s licenses. To secure a driver’s license in the state, residents must show proof of legal residence. A permanent residence stamp on a foreign national’s passport constitutes proof — unless it’s fake.

“This is an immigration fraud conspiracy where the defendant and his co-conspirators were charging illegal aliens thousands of dollars to place a bogus immigration stamp in their passports,” according to the U.S. government’s sentencing memorandum in the case.

Paul Domenic Petruzzi, Carrasco’s attorney, said his client got a lighter sentence because he cooperated with the government.

“Because of the nature of his plea, the judge agreed with us and sentenced him to 45 months,” Petruzzi said.

The case against Carrasco came to light in July when federal prosecutors unsealed a grand jury indictment against Carrasco and two alleged accomplices.

Carrasco was arrested Aug, 27, along with the alleged accomplices. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 and was sentenced Monday.

Court records show that investigators from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), documented the case against Carrasco by interviewing at least 46 of the 110 undocumented immigrants who bought the fake residence stamps. Investigators also taped some phone conversations between Carrasco and an undercover officer who posed as an undocumented immigrant.

Transcripts of some of the conversations were included in the court documents of the case.

In one of the conversation, the undercover officer is asking Carrasco about how the system worked.

“Well look, uh, uh, this is a matter of a transfer,” Carrasco is quoted as saying. “You give me the money and you wait for me to bring you the documentation on the same day. And the following day you go and present yourself. The only thing all the documentation does is appear on the computer as though you are legally in the country. That’s the only thing you’re paying for.”

Carrasco had been under federal investigation since 2000 for lying on an application for a concealed weapons permit. But, court records show, he fled the United States only days after being interviewed by federal agents.

He reentered the United States illegally through Mexico several years later, according to court records.

Carrasco has been ordered to surrender for deportation proceedings at the completion of his sentence, according to minutes of the sentencing hearing.

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