Two charged in ICE probe for selling fake tribal documents to illegal aliens

SAN DIEGO – A North County man and woman are facing multiple felony charges for selling fraudulent Native American citizenship documents to illegal aliens who were promised they could legally enter the United States from Mexico and Canada by joining a Native American tribe.

Victor Granadaos, 57, and Kim Thomas Johnson, 47, were arrested at their homes yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The defendants, who are United States citizens, were arraigned this afternoon in county court on a six-count felony complaint for various theft and fraud charges. If convicted, they each face more than three years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines. The arrests follow a ten-month ICE probe stemming from a lead provided by the District Attorney’s office.

"We’re sending a clear message to those who prey on undocumented individuals that we will prosecute them for felony crimes they commit," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis. "At the same time, undocumented immigrants should be aware that it is not possible to obtain residency by joining an Indian tribe."

"There will always be opportunists who try to exploit and profit from others," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for ICE investigations in San Diego. "Lawful immigration status is not for sale. Anyone who claims otherwise is defrauding his customers and the U.S. government."

During the investigation, ICE agents located several victims who had been approached at sales meetings hosted in one of the defendant’s homes. The victims paid $1,500 for a packet containing membership documents in the Pembina Nation Little Shell Band of North America, which is not a federally recognized Indian tribe. The defendants promised the documents could be used to legally enter the United States through Mexico and Canada. The packets included a Pembina Native American identification card and birth certificate, a special Native American vehicle license plate, and an informational CD that described the benefits of the membership.

ICE is appealing to the community for help in identifying other possible victims of this scam. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or 1-866-347-2423. All information will remain confidential and will be used to assist the agency locate additional victims.

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