McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A former Border Patrol agent and his wife have been indicted on charges they were part of a conspiracy to hire undocumented migrants by fraudulently obtaining travel permits for foreigners and had them work as commercial truck drivers, the Justice Department says.
Ricardo Gonzalez, 39, a former Border Patrol agent, and his wife, Natalia Gonzalez, 35, were arrested along with Alex Lopez, 33, on Nov. 17 in Laredo, Texas, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery said.
According to the charges, the three were responsible for the day-to-day operations of Gonmor Inc., a commercial trucking company located in Laredo. The indictment alleges beginning in February 2017, they recruited and hired undocumented individuals “to work as commercial truck drivers and paid them less due to their citizenship status,” according to a media release.
The trio is accused of preparing paperwork that enabled the migrants to obtain I-94 permits, which allow non-U.S. citizens to travel farther than 25 miles from the border and to remain in the United States past 30 days as legal visitors.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a permit or visa, like a border crossing card, must be presented in order to obtain an I-94, but it does not make the recipient eligible to work in the United States.
The Justice Department says paperwork generated by the trio “included a letter from a fictitious 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 they could travel into the United States. “When the individual received the permit, the co-conspirators allegedly assigned jobs to the new employee to transport legitimate cargo throughout the United States,” Justice Department officials said.
They each face up to five years in prison on the charges relating to obtaining fraudulent immigration permits, and up to 10 years each on conspiracy charges to encourage or induce a non-U.S. citizen to remain in the United States and to harbor or shield an undocumented individual from detection of law enforcement.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com