LaVernia Restaurant Operator Pleads Guilty to Immigration Document Fraud Scheme
In San Antonio today, 49-year-old Yolanda Hernandez de Arteaga, the former operator of the Los Compadres Restaurant in LaVernia, TX, pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the execution of a fraud scheme for financial benefit which targeted individuals seeking legitimate immigration documents announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.
Appearing before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery this morning, Arteaga pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five substantive counts of wire fraud.
By pleading guilty, Arteaga admitted that from October 2010 through December 2012, she and her co-defendant, 56–year-old Maria de Lourdes Montano-Vicencio, an undocumented alien living in Houston, initiated a series of financial fraud schemes including numerous incidents of wire fraud whereby they would induce vulnerable immigrants in the LaVernia area into giving them money in exchange for securing legal immigration status documents. In the schemes, the defendants claimed to have personal contacts with immigration authorities who could provide each victim with items such as a social security card, a resident alien car and a work permit in about six months-time. It was part of the scheme that the defendants did not provide any documents to the undocumented aliens. During the time of the conspiracy, the defendants collected over $100,000 from more than 60 immigrants desperate for legal immigration status documents. When the victim-immigrants became angry because they never received any documents or refunds, the defendants threatened to notify immigration authorities and facilitate the deportation of the immigrants if the victims made trouble. During the scheme, Arteaga wired proceeds from the scheme from LaVernia to Montano-Vicencio in Houston via Western Union or MoneyGram.
Arteaga, who is on a $25,000 bond and confined to her residence pending sentencing, faces up to 20 years in federal prison. The federal government is also seeking a $150,000 monetary judgment against the defendants representing the proceeds derived from their alleged scheme.
Montano-Vicencio, who is in federal custody, is currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to four counts of wire fraud in February of last year. Arteaga and Montano-Vicencio are scheduled to be sentenced on March 6, 2015.
This case resulted from an investigation conducted by the agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Border Patrol and the LaVernia Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Bettina Richardson is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.