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California Woman Sentenced for Alien Smuggling Scheme


Press Statement
U.S. Department of Justice
San Jose, CA
August 23, 2010

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Melinda Haag, United States Attorney
Northern District of California

Victoria Puntanilla was sentenced today to fifteen months in prison, and ordered to forfeit $150,000 for her role in an alien smuggling scheme, United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent In-Charge Patrick Durkin announced.

Puntanilla, 58, pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2009, to one count of Misusing a Passport. According to the plea agreement, Puntanilla admitted that on May 21, 2004, she gave a United States passport belonging to an American citizen to a similar-looking Filipino citizen in the Philippines. The Filipino citizen then illegally used this American passport to enter the United States at San Francisco International Airport. Puntanilla further admitted that after the Diplomatic Security Service and other law enforcement officers served a search warrant on her residence seeking false passports, she attempted to obstruct the investigation by urging some of the Filipino citizens involved in the scheme to return to the Philippines.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte following a guilty plea to one count in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1544. Judge Whyte also sentenced the defendant to a three year period of supervised release. The defendant is scheduled to begin serving the sentence on Oct. 26.

Jeff Schenk is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case with the assistance of Kamille Singh. The prosecution is the result of an investigation led by Diplomatic Security Service’s representative to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) overseen by Homeland Security Investigations. The DBFTF is a multi-agency task force that coordinates sophisticated investigations in fraudulent immigration documents like entry visas and passports. Special Agents from the California Department of Justice also assisted in the investigation.

Anyone with information about the false use of United States passports or entry visas is encouraged to contact the Diplomatic Security Service San Francisco Field Office at 415-705-1176, an American Embassy or Consulate.

Contact:
Jack Gillund, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of California
415-436-6599
Jack.Gillund@usdoj.gov



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