Oct. 22, 2003 – The U.S. Attorney's office announced on Wednesday the arrest of three persons who had been indicted by a federal grand jury earlier on charges that involved fraudulently selling passport stamps to illegal aliens. One of the individuals is a U.S. Customs supervisory immigration inspector.
Those arrested were Pedro Vega, 33, the Customs official; Ignacia Veras de los Santos, 28; and Agustin Veras de los Santos, 26.
The grand jury seated on St. Thomas charged all three with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, wire fraud, bribery and document fraud, according to a release from U.S. Attorney David Nissman's office. The release announced the unsealing of the 16-count indictment but did not say when it was handed up in District Court.
The grand jury accused the three of selling fraudulently obtained stick-on passport stamps for $4,000 to undocumented aliens. The so-called adit stamps would allow the illegal aliens to travel and stay in the United States.
According to the indictment, Ignacia Veras de los Santos would contact aliens over the telephone to arrange the sale of the stamps. In February, she called one unidentified person about a dozen times to arrange for the individual to arrive at Cyril E. King Airport with a fraudulent document, the indictment states.
Vega, in his capacity as a supervisory immigration inspector with the federal Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, would see to it that aliens with the stamps got through immigration checkpoints in the territory, according to the indictment.
If convicted of the charges, the three defendants could each face a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Nissman said investigation of the case involved the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau and the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General. He described the case as important "because of the need to root out public corruption from our island community wherever it exists, including at our federally protected borders."
And he asked that anyone with information about public corruption in any governmental institution call the FBI at 777-3363.
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