San Juan, Puerto Rico - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Enforcement Officers arrested Monday three citizens of the Dominican Republic attempting to travel using counterfeit U.S. visas from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport bound to two distinct destinations.
Defendants Genaro Valerio Mendoza, Sandivel Taveras-Arias, and Belkis Maria Arias-Vasquez appeared today before U.S. District Court Judge Camille Velez-Rive facing charges for violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1546, fraud and misuse of visa, permits and other documents.
The defendants were arrested by CBP officers after presenting what appeared to be counterfeit U.S. visas and CBP I-94 forms with fake admission stamps, within their Dominican Republic issued passports, prior to boarding Jet Blue flights destined to New York and Hartford, Conn.
During further secondary examination of the documents, CBP officers confirmed that the presented visas and stamps were counterfeit.
Upon inquiry, all three defendants admitted to having purchased their documents from unidentified sources in the San Juan Metropolitan area, paying between $1,500 and $1,800.
CBP Enforcement officers presented the case to Assistant United States Attorney Evelyn Canals for criminal prosecution.
If convicted all defendants face a fine and not more than five years of imprisonment, or both.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers remain vigilant as they review entry documents to identify and apprehend those who use fraudulent or invalid documents in an attempt to enter and remain the U.S.," said Marcelino Borges, Director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the USVI. "CBP officers train regularly to become experts in document examination and interviewing techniques."
CBP Field Operations is responsible for securing our borders at the ports of entry. The CBP officer's primary mission is anti-terrorism. Everyday they screen all people, vehicles, and goods entering the United States, while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel into and out of the United States. Their mission also includes carrying out traditional border-related responsibilities, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing trade laws, enforcing immigration laws, protecting the nation's food supply and protecting U.S. agriculture industry from pests and diseases.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.