A former U.S. Border Patrol agent, his wife and a business associate have been charged with conspiring to hire undocumented migrants to work as truck drivers.
Ricardo Gonzalez, 39, his wife, Natalia Gonzalez, 35, as well as Alex Lopez, 33, were indicted Thursday on three counts by a federal grand jury in Laredo, Texas, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office. They were arraigned Friday.
The trio are accused of fraudulently obtaining immigration permits to hire undocumented migrants to work for their firm, Gonmor Inc., a Laredo-based commercial trucking company.
Gonmor Inc., founded in 2015, operates 27 trucks and employs 38 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The Gonzalezes and Lopez were employees of Gonmor, responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the business, according to authorities. Court documents did not name the owner of Gonmor Inc.
If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to fraudulently obtain immigration permits and up to 10 years each for conspiracy to encourage or induce a migrant to remain in the United States and conspiracy to harbor a migrant from detection.
Gonzalez worked as a Border Patrol agent from 2007 to 2019, according to the indictment. He used his experience and training to facilitate the scheme by obtaining I-94 work permits, which allow a visitor to travel farther than 25 miles from the border and remain in the U.S. for more than 30 days.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2017, Gonzalez, his wife and Lopez began recruiting and hiring migrants to work for Gonmor. They prepared immigration paperwork that included a letter from a fake Mexican trucking company stating that the individuals were employed in Mexico as truck drivers.
The group allegedly instructed individuals to present the fraudulent paperwork to authorities at the Laredo port of entry along the border to apply for the I-94 permit. When the undocumented individuals received the permit, the co-conspirators allegedly assigned jobs to the new employee to transport legitimate cargo throughout the U.S.
The three also paid the undocumented migrants less because of their lack of citizenship status, authorities said.
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