Friday, August 12, 2011

Raid had been in works for a year (Laurel Leader-Call)

Raid had been in works for a year
9 people arrested in 3 states

By Eloria Newell James and Charlotte A. Graham, LL-C Reporters
Laurel Leader-Call

August 12, 2011

LAUREL — Nine people arrested in a federal raid made their initial court appearance in United States District Court this week.

Agents with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a raid Tuesday at La Mesa Mobile Home Park on Doncurt Road, just off Highway 11, South in Laurel.

According to ICE officials, four federal search warrants were issued at a trailer park on Tuesday and six people were arrested.

Shelia Wilbanks with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday that a total of nine people have been charged in connection with the raid.

ICE Agents and members of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department conducted the raid at the mobile home park in connection with federal violations regarding the production of counterfeit identification.

“ICE was the agency in charge,” said Shaunita Weathersby, JCSD’s Public Information Director. “We worked closely with ICE to get the execution of the search warrant secured and provided extra security for ICE during the arrests.”

Those arrested in connection with the case were taken into custody and transported to the Forrest County Regional Jail, where they are being held on federal charges.

Officials also confirmed that three minor children at the scene of the raid were turned over to the temporary custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

Individuals taken into custody in connection with the raid are Pastor Quiahua Gonzalez, 25; Arturo Apocada -Tejeda, 40; Benlly Araffar Hernandez Cordova, 32; Jose Felipe Sanchez-Acencio (age unknown), Noe Ortega, 25, also known as “Flaco”, 25; Julieta Rivera Lopez, 37; Leticia Rodriguez, 40; and Ricardo Rodriguez, 19; and Ricardo Obispo Martinez, 21, also known as “Luis LNU.”

Wilbanks said Leticia and Ricardo Rodriguez were arrested in Mobile, Ala., and Martinez was arrested in Houston, Texas.

Wilbanks said the defendants were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft fraud. They made their initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Hattiesburg Tuesday and were given an Oct. 17 trial date.

Court documents show that Martinez made his initial court appearance before U. S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker in federal court in Hattiesburg on Wednesday. He is charged with conspiracy and possession of a firearm by an illegal alien.

An affidavit, that was attached to Martinez’s criminal complaint, shows that agents began their investigation of an “identity theft organization” operating in the area in July 2010. On Aug. 2, agents “successfully purchased a counterfeit Texas identification card and a counterfeit Social Security card with a name and matching number, resulting in identity theft.”

According to the affidavit, agents purchased the card from an individual who was later identified as Francisco Javier Jiminez-Cortes. The investigation continued and in December 2010 agents identified Pastor Quiahua-Gonzalez as a member of the identity theft organization. Federal agents purchased a counterfeit Texas identification card and counterfeit Social Security card from him on Jan. 19, 2011.

Agents later requested and received a court order authorizing a wiretap of Quiahia-Gonzalez’s cell phone. As a result, agents identified Apodaca-Tejada as the local manager of the identity theft organization. Also, agents identified three cell phones Arturo was using.

The affidavit further states that two federal judges signed court orders authorizing agents to wiretap Apodaca-Tejada’s cell phone. As a result, agents identified Martinez as a member of the counterfeit identification organization.

Court documents also state that through wiretaps and surveillance, federal agents identified Martinez’s trailer as the place used by the organization to store guns, blank cards, and cleaning supplies.

“The blank cards are utilized to manufacture counterfeit state identification cards, driver’s licenses, Mexican driver’s licenses, and resident alien cards,” the affidavit stated. “The cleaning supplies are utilized to clean the computers and other miscellaneous items needed to manufacture counterfeit identification documents.”

According to the affidavit, on July 22 a federal agent observed Martinez give Apodaca-Tejada a black case after hearing a recorded phone conversation about Martinez bringing Apodaca-Tejada a pistol. The affidavit pointed out that agents executed federal search warrants at the residences of Martinez and Apodaca-Tejada.

The black case was discovered at Apodaca-Tejada’s residence and in it was a pistol. Apodaca-Tejada told agents he previously kept the pistol at the residence of Martinez’s roommate.

A search of Martinez’s residence netted a cell phone. The affidavit said Martinez claimed ownership of the phone and during an interview with agents, it was determined that Martinez was in the country illegally.

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