Mexican Immigrant Who Pretended To Be Immigration Officer Has US Citizenship Revoked

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A Mexican national who had become a naturalized U.S. citizen has been stripped of her citizenship for impersonating an immigration officer and running a fraud scheme against unsuspecting illegal immigrants, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Araceli Martinez, 53, was ordered to give up her certificate of naturalization and refrain from claiming any rights or benefits of U.S. citizenship, according to a DOJ news release.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California entered the order on Aug. 21, following a successful petition by prosecutors from DOJ’s Civil Division and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyers.

“This order sends a clear message to individuals who commit fraud during the naturalization process — we will investigate you and seek you out to ensure that justice is done,” said acting ICE Director Thomas Homan in a statement. “ICE will continue to work with our partners at the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section to hold individuals responsible for their fraudulent conduct, especially those pretending to be government officials.”

Martinez impersonated a U.S. immigration officer between June 2011 and March 2012 and convinced illegal immigrants that she could assist them in obtaining legal status, according to the complaint to revoke citizenship. Prosecutors say Martinez ripped off her victims for thousands of dollars without ever submitting any paperwork on their behalf.

Meanwhile, Martinez was in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. During an interview a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer, she swore under oath that she had never committed a crime for which she was not arrested. Based on the information she offered during the interview, USCIS approved Martinez’s application, and she subsequently became a U.S. citizen in April 2012.

Martinez was eventually arrested by the Los Angeles Sheriffs Office and charged with 11 counts of fraud. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

Under U.S. immigration law, a person who gives false testimony for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit does not meet the bar for “good moral character” required to obtain citizenship. The Supreme Court recently limitedthe types of false statements that can be used to revoke citizenship, but prosecutors in the Martinez case were able to prove that her lies were material to the naturalization process and therefore grounds for denationalization.

“We will aggressively pursue the denaturalization of individuals who lie on their naturalization applications, especially in a circumstance like this one, which involved an alien who masqueraded as an immigration officer and was convicted of defrauding nine aliens of thousands of dollars in exchange for false promises of facilitating immigration benefits,” said said acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

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