Former USBP agent, other individual plead guilty to defrauding the USA

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A former U.S. Border Patrol agent and another individual have admitted to employing non-immigrants by fraudulently obtaining immigration permits, according to the U.S. Attorney.

Authorities identified the former agent as Ricardo Gonzalez, 40.

He and Alex Lopez, 33, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, authorities said on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña will sentence the pair at a later date. Each faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. Each remains out on bond pending the sentencing hearing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew is prosecuting the case.

Gonzalez operated a company known as Gonmor Transportation while Lopez was the office manager. Gonzalez was an active agent at the time of the incident, according to authorities.

“The multi-year scheme involved the company recruiting and hiring non-immigrants to work as commercial truck drivers, but then paid them less due to their citizenship status,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“As part of the scheme, Gonzalez’s company would provide these new hires with a letter to take to one of the ports of entry in Laredo. The letter had information claiming the driver was working for a Mexican trucking company and was requesting an I-94 travel permit so he could enter the United States, pick up cargo and return to Mexico.”

As part of their pleas, Gonzalez and Lopez admitted to knowing the drivers were not working for this Mexican company but still provided the letter to assist in obtaining the I-94 permit. Once obtaining the permit, Gonmor paid the drivers to transport cargo within the United States, thus violating the permit terms.

“Gonzalez and Lopez admitted to knowing the people they were hiring to drive trucks for the company were not allowed to work in the United States, that the company paid these people less because of their status and that the I-94 permit did not authorize these individuals to work in the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Authorities said that a Mexican driver with a valid non-immigrant visa who works for a Mexican transportation company and is paid by them in Mexico may obtain an I-94 at an international bridge.

With the permit, the driver can travel with a load further into the United States and then return to Mexico. The I-94 permit does not allow the driver to work in the United States or for a U.S.-based company, according to authorities.

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