Four members of a ring that distributed hundreds of fake immigration and identification documents in San Antonio and Austin received sentences Tuesday of 10 months to 41 months in prison.
The four are among nine people who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their roles in an operation that's alleged to have made $1 million from the sale of counterfeit green cards, drivers' licenses, identification cards and Social Security cards, although the ringleader, Carlos Saldaña, denied rolling in dough.
Saldaña received 41 months, the highest term of the five suspects who appeared before U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez.
The other three sentenced Tuesday pleaded for leniency and convinced the judge they were lesser participants.
Four other suspects, including Saldaña's co-leader, Gregory Hernandez Trolle, will be sentenced at a later date.
All are in their 20s and are from Mexico or elsewhere, and most were in the United States illegally.
“There might have been evidence that these defendants had the capability to make thousands (of fake documents), but my client never really made that much money,” Saldaña's lawyer, Bernie Martinez, told the judge. “He really was trying to help people come here to work and support their families — like he did.”
Saldaña apologized for his actions, which almost certainly will end in his deportation to his native Mexico.
“I am repentant a thousand times for having done this,” Saldaña cried in Spanish. “I'm paying for it and so are my children. ... I never thought of the consequences.”
In raids in various locations in San Antonio and Austin last May, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found document-making equipment, blank identity card stock and Social Security cards. Agents learned the group had been making and selling each document for $100, and the counterfeits included drivers' licenses from Texas, other states and from other countries, including Honduras.
An undercover agent bought a fake green card, Social Security card and Texas driver's license during the six-month probe. Hernandez alone admitted to agents that he manufactured “at least 1,000” counterfeit IDs in the first four months of 2010.
The judge gave Alexander Perez-Varela a two-year sentence and handed Johnnys Amilca Raudales Moncada and Leonel Cobos Murillo each 10 months in prison.
Hernandez, Miguel Vasquez Diaz, Jairo Solis Rivera, Bernardina “Brenda” Rodriguez, and Daniel Alberto Chacon Ramon are scheduled for sentencing within the next month, records show.
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