LAREDO, Texas – A former Border Patrol (BP) agent, his wife and a Laredo man have been charged for their roles in a conspiracy to hire illegal aliens by fraudulently obtaining immigration permits, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Authorities arrested Ricardo Gonzalez, 39, his wife, Natalia Gonzalez, 35, and Alex Lopez, 33, today. They are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song Quiroga at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
A federal grand jury returned the three-count indictment Nov.15.
According to the charges, the three conspirators were responsible for the day-to-day operations of Gonmor Inc., a commercial trucking company located in Laredo.
Beginning in February of 2017, the indictment alleges the group recruited and hired undocumented individuals to work as commercial truck drivers and paid them less due to their citizenship status. They were allegedly aware that the people they hired were not legally allowed to work in the United States.
The conspirators allegedly prepared paperwork so the individuals could obtain an I-94 permit which allows a visitor to travel farther than 25 miles from the border and remain in the United States for more than 30 days. Applicants must present another permit/visa such as a border crossing card in order to obtain an I-94 and are not eligible to work in the United States by law, according to the charges.
The paperwork allegedly included a letter from a fictious Mexican trucking company and stated the undocumented individual was employed by the company as a truck driver. According to the indictment, the letter further requested that the person receive an I-94 permit so that he could travel into the United States.
The group allegedly instructed individuals to present the letter to authorities at a port of entry in Laredo to apply for the permit. When the individual received the permit, the co-conspirators allegedly assigned jobs to the new employee to transport legitimate cargo throughout the United States.
Gonzalez is a former BP agent and allegedly utilized his knowledge, training and experience to facilitate the employment of undocumented individuals and obtaining the I-94 permits.
If convicted, each faces up to five years for the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain immigration permits and up to 10 years each for the conspiracy to encourage or induce an alien to remain in the United States and conspiracy to harbor/shield an alien from detection.
Customs and Border Protection – Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.