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News : St. Joseph Woman Sentenced In $5 Million Dollar Conspiracy
Posted by Randy on 2013/9/13 9:50:14 (676 reads) News by the same author

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two St. Joseph, Mo., women along with four co-defendants, have been sentenced in federal court.
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They were convicted for their roles in a more than $5 million conspiracy that utilized the Missouri Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph to provide more than 3,500 fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens across the United States.

Sherri E. Gutierrez, 46, of St. Joseph, and Brenda De La Cruz, 33, of San Antonio, Texas, were sentenced on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner. Gutierrez was sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison without parole. De La Cruz was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole. Gutierrez’s daughter, Shayna R Vanvacter, 27, of St. Joseph, was sentenced on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, to two years in federal prison without parole.

Three additional co-defendants were also sentenced on Tuesday, Sept 10, 2013. Elder Enrique Ordonez-Chanas, also known as “Flaco,” 32, a citizen of Guatemala who is unlawfully in the United States and resided in Carthage, was sentenced to five years and one month in federal prison without parole. Luis Adalberto Felipe-Lopez, 30, a citizen of Guatemala who was unlawfully in the United States and resided in Mt. Olive, N.C., was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole. Rafael Hernandez-Ortiz, also known as “Hugo,” 32, a citizen of Mexico who was unlawfully present in the United States and resided in Owatonna, Minn., was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole.

It is estimated that more than 3,500 licenses were issued to illegal aliens by the Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph. Conspirators helped illegal aliens obtain birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of others. These identity documents were used to obtain either a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license at the St. Joseph license office. The state licenses could then be used by the illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the United States, to unlawfully obtain employment and for other unlawful purposes.

The illegal aliens were usually charged between $1,500 and $1,600 for the document sets and the Missouri driver’s and non-driver’s licenses. It is estimated that more than $5,250,000 in gross proceeds was paid by illegal aliens to members of this conspiracy.

Sixteen defendants have been sentenced and two defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

Gutierrez pleaded guilty on April 10, 2013 to being a leader or manager of the conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, to unlawfully produce identification documents, to unlawfully transfer another person’s identification and to commit Social Security fraud from November 2009 to January 2012. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. De La Cruz also pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft.

Gutierrez’s sister, Deborah J. Flores, 47, was sentenced on June 26, 2013, to three years and four months in federal prison without parole. On Oct. 18, 2012 Flores pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft.

Flores’s children, Jessica M. Gonzalez, 22, Sara M. Gonzalez, 21, Christina Michelle Gonzalez, 24, and Stephen E. Vanvacter, 25, along with co-defendant Christopher B. Escobar, 23, all of St. Joseph, have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.

Gutierrez, Shayna Vanvacter, Flores, her children and Escobar all admitted that they accompanied illegal aliens to the St. Joseph license office, under the guise of being translators, in order to assist them with obtaining a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license. They also admitted that they instructed and assisted the illegal aliens to practice memorizing the information on the birth certificates and Social Security cards and to practice signing the name on those documents so that the signatures would be similar. They also assisted the illegal aliens to prepare for potential questions from the license office employees. They also assisted the illegal aliens who did not live in Missouri by providing them with a Missouri residential address to use in order to obtain the Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license.

Christina Gonzalez was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution. Sara Gonzalez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison without parole. Jessica Gonzalez was sentenced to three years of probation. Stephen Vanvacter was sentenced to five years of probation.

Ordonez-Chanas pleaded guilty on April 8, 2013 to his role in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft. Ordonez-Chanas was an organizer and leader of the conspiracy. Ordonez-Chanas admitted that he assisted illegal aliens in obtaining birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of others. Ordonez-Chanas requested document sets (of a specific age range for either a male or a female that corresponded with the illegal alien who was the customer) from co-defendants De la Cruz and Julio Cesar Llanas-Rodriguez, 38, and Martin Alejandro Llanas-Rodriguez, both of San Antonio, Texas. Ordonez-Chanas then mailed the documents sets to Gutierrez and others.

Felipe-Lopez pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft. Felipe-Lopez admitted that he transported illegal aliens between St. Joseph and North Carolina. Felipe-Lopez admitted that he assisted illegal aliens in obtaining birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of others. These identity documents were used to obtain either a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license at the St. Joseph license office.

Hernandez-Ortiz pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy on April 29, 2013. Hernandez-Ortiz admitted that he transported illegal aliens from Minnesota to the St. Joseph license office.

Julio and Martin Llanas-Rodriguez were each sentenced to five years and one month in federal prison without parole. They both pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy and to aggravated identity theft. Along with De La Cruz, their roles in the conspiracy were to obtain state-issued birth certificates, usually from the state of Texas, which they purchased from willing individuals. They also obtained Social Security cards in the names of the individuals on the birth certificates, so they would have a matching document set. They mailed the documents to Gutierrez and others.

Nelson Dariseo Bautista-Orozco, 27, a citizen of Guatemala who is unlawfully in the United States and resided in Carthage, was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison without parole.

Ranfe Adaias Hernandez-Flores, also known as “Miguel,” 24, also a citizen of Guatemala who is unlawfully in the United States and resided in Carthage, was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole.

Jon L. Grippando, 25, of Atkins, Ark., was sentenced to eight months in federal prison without parole.

Melissa L. Scallions, 27, of Hazelwood, Mo., has pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy. She admitted that she also accompanied illegal aliens into the St. Joseph license office, under the guise of being a translator, in order to assist them with obtaining a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license. Scallions and Escobar await sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jess E. Michaelsen. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.

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