Guatemalan Charged With Visa Fraud in Southern California

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Federal authorities on Friday indicted the former chief of the National Police in Guatemala’s second-largest city on visa-fraud charges for failing to disclose on his green card application that he had been arrested and tried for kidnapping and murder in Guatemala.

Authorities say Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, 77, failed to tell immigration authorities on his lawful permanent resident card application that he was charged in the murders of two political activists in Guatemala in late 1987, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

On Friday, Valiente appeared for arraignment in the Central District of California. If convicted, he faces 10 years in federal prison.

In 1987, Valiente was charged and convicted in the kidnapping and murders of two members of the agronomy department at the Centro Universitario de Occident in Quetzaltenango, according to authorities. Others were also charged in the crimes.

But appeals courts twice overturned Valiente’s 30-year sentence, remanding the case for further proceedings in 1993. Valiente remained free despite an arrest warrant being issued in July 1993, renewed twice and then rescinded in 2015.

The Justice Department said it’s unclear if charges are still pending in Guatemala.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment accusing Valiente of fraudulently obtaining a green card in 1997, by stating he had never been arrested, charged or imprisoned for breaking any law.

“When in truth and in fact, as defendant Valiente well knew, he had been arrested, charged, and imprisoned for kidnapping and murder in Guatemala,” prosecutors say in the indictment.

Valiente entered a not guilty plea and his trial is set for April 10.  He was released on a $10,000 bond, according a spokesperson with the Department of Justice.

Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force worked with an attaché in Guatemala City along with several other agencies.

The case is being prosecuted by a special assistant United States Attorney with the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

 

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