Six Missouri residents have been caught and sentenced to federal prison without parole for conducting a scheme that involved selling false documents to undocumented immigrants. The two main leaders of the scheme are from St. Joseph, MO and have pleaded guilty while the remaining four people were sentenced this week.
Sherri E. Gutierrez along with her daughter, Shayna R. Vanvacter of St. Joseph were the two main people involved with the conspiracy. They both worked at the Missouri Department of Revenue where they provided more than 3,500 fraudulent identity documents to residents across the country whom they knew were here illegally. Prosecutors are estimating that the conspirators took over $5.2 million over the course of their conspiracy for selling the documents. Sixteen defendants have been sentenced and two more have pleaded guilty. Prosecutors are cracking down on cases of immigration fraud, which has been shown to occur more in these populations which tend to be more vulnerable.
Immigration advocates warn immigrants, both undocumented and documented, to consider reaching out for help from a licensed attorney or from the not for profit advocate groups. Because immigrants who are undocumented are worried that they may be deported if anyone learns of their legal status, many times they do not seek help or want to let their problems be known. These scammers end up using the immigrants in their difficult situation and steal their money by providing legal, or sometimes even illegal information. Such as was seen in this case, immigrants received illegal information stolen from the Internal Revenue service which is now in the wrong hands and being used for the wrong reasons. However, because of the situation many immigrants are in, with no path to citizenship, they are required to take desperate measures by acquiring fake documentation for large sums of money. While it is difficult to track who exactly received the 3,500 fraudulent identity documents, it is easy to see who instigated the works and the following people will be sentenced accordingly.
If you are looking for a licensed immigration attorney, have questions regarding immigration reform, applying for a visa or attaining legal status, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.