At some point more than six years ago, federal court records show, a Bolivian woman paid $3,500 for a fraudulent Cuban birth certificate.
The certificate enabled Vania Lahore Crespo, 39, to claim Cuban citizenship and thus obtain U.S. permanent residence under the Cuban Adjustment Act, according to court records. A criminal complaint says she was also known as Vania Avila.
That action caught up with Crespo in May when she landed at Miami International Airport (MIA) on a flight from Bolivia. After she presented her Bolivian passport and U.S. green card she was arrested for document fraud related to her residence application as a Cuban, a criminal complaint says.
Now, Crespo is awaiting deportation after changing her plea to guilty on Aug. 27. She was sentenced to time served on the same day and ordered turned over to immigration authorities for deportation proceedings, according to court documents.
None of the court documents say whether Crespo acted alone or was one of several non-Cuban undocumented immigrants who in recent years have obtained fake Cuban documents from ID theft rings to qualify for U.S. green cards.
People who can prove to U.S. immigration officials that they are Cuban nationals, generally with official Cuban documents such as birth certificates, can obtain green cards under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
But U.S. officials have tightened scrutiny of applicants after a series of cases in which undocumented immigrants from various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean claimed to be Cuban using fake Cuban documents.
One of the illicit rings that sold fake Cuban birth certificates to undocumented immigrants was dismantled by federal immigration officials in 2013 when four of its members — two Cubans and two Uruguayans — were arrested and prosecuted.
Court records show they sold fake Cuban birth certificates to dozens of undocumented immigrants from various countries. Their activities started as far back as 2009, according to federal court records.
Court records do not say whether Crespo bought her fake Cuban birth certificate from this group or a different one.
The Crespo case began before she landed at MIA. One court document indicates she was questioned at MIA because of a possible lookout for her that may have popped up on the MIA passport control officer’s computer screen when she arrived.
“The defendant presented a Bolivian passport and legal permanent resident card for entry into the United States,” the criminal complaint says. “The defendant was referred to secondary inspection for a possible lookout.”
As Crespo was questioned, investigators checked her immigration record and learned that she had obtained a green card in 2009 under the Cuban Adjustment Act by using what turned out to be a fake Cuban birth certificate.
“During the secondary interview,” the complaint says, “Vania Lahore Crespo, a/k/a ‘Vania Avila’ admitted that she purchased and utilized a fraudulent Cuban birth certificate indicating that her mother was a Cuban national to apply for and obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States.”
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy