A Goshen resident is one of five people who have been convicted of immigration fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s office of South Bend announced Friday. The five advertised and sold their services to illegal immigrants of Hispanic descent, offering to help them buy cars, register vehicles and obtain license plates.
The Goshen resident operated out of a storefront business at 23647 U.S. Highway 33, Suite A, in Elkhart, that appeared to offer legitimate services. The business was called Servicios Guerrero.
Anyone who wants to obtain a vehicle title or register a car in the state of Indiana must have a valid social security number. Corporations and businesses, however, can get registrations, license plates and titles without a social security number.
Here's how the scam worked:
Indianapolis resident Omar Duran Lagunes created, opened and operated businesses that would appear to offer legitimate services for people of Hispanic descent. Using the Internet, he would get fake tax ID numbers from the IRS. He would then use those numbers to create more phony businesses to conduct transactions.
According to the indictment, Lagunes oversaw multiple locations where his conspirators did the same thing. By doing this, he and his partners were able to obtain vehicle titles from and register vehicles at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
He and his fellow conspirators would then solicit customers from Hispanic communities—even going so far as to advertise their services—targeting people living in the U.S. illegally. They would charge their customers fees for various forged documents, including insurance documents, power of attorney forms and affadavits, which the customers could use to apply for registrations and titles, posing as corporations.
“The documents that were presented to us were part of the criminal activity that was conducted by these gentleman,” said Dennis Rosebrough, deputy commissioner of external affairs for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “People were using these fraudulent documents to get false identification documents.”
A couple of the fake documents ended up in law enforcement's hands, which spurred an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Agents set up an undercover operation and nabbed six people for taking money for fake documents. The investigation began in 2009 and yielded indictments in 2012.
The five convicted of immigration fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud were:
-Margarito Fuentes Reyes, Goshen, scheduled for sentencing June 6, 2013
-Omar Duran Lagunes, Indianapolis, scheduled for sentencing May 30, 2013
-Luis Omar Merino, Indianapolis, scheduled for sentencing May 30, 2013
-Yalitza Exclusa Borrero, Indianapolis, scheduled for sentencing May 23, 2013
-Evelyn Rivera Borrero, Indianapolis, scheduled for sentencing May 23, 2013
Note: A sixth person who was arrested, Raul Rafael Roman Camacho, was indicted, but was not listed among those convicted last week. News Center 16 will continue to follow this story and will update information as it becomes available.