Two people have pleaded guilty and another man was sentenced today as a result of federal investigations into thousands of fraudulent immigration documents.
Abraham Ceron-Lopez, a 38-year-old Mexican citizen living in Kansas City, was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to creating false documents.
Investigators found counterfeit Resident Alien cards and Social Security cards, as well as equipment to produce them, in his possession.
Ceron-Lopez was arrested when an informant told Homeland Security investigations that he could be found in a grocery parking lot in Kansas City, Kan. Ceron-Lopez admitted to investigators that he produced the documents, described in the court complaint as being of poor quality, in his home in Kansas City.
In another investigation, a brother and sister in St. Joseph pleaded guilty to their roles in a conspiracy to produce more than 3,500 fake identity documents for illegal immigrants since 2009. Jessica M. Gonzalez, 21, pleaded guilty on Wednesday and Stephen E. Vanvacter, 25, pleaded guilty on Friday.
Both admitted they were part of a conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants, produce false documents, steal identities and commit Social Security fraud. The penalty for the conspiracy charge is up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the conspiracy involved thousands of illegal immigrants obtaining Missouri diver’s licenses or non-driver’s licenses at the St. Joseph license office by using unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. The fraudulent licenses could then be used to remain in the United States and to get a job.
Two other sisters in the same family, 21-year-old Sara M. Gonzalez and 24-year-old Christina Michelle Gonzalez, both of St. Joseph, previously pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy. All four admitted they posed as translators while accompanying illegal immigrants to the St. Joseph license office. They coached the illegal immigrants to memorize information on unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards and to practice forging the real owner’s identity.
Prosecutors say the illegal immigrants were usually charged $1,500 to $1,600, and they estimate the total proceeds from the conspiracy to be more than $5 million.
Cases are pending against 10 other defendants in the St. Joseph conspiracy.