March 19, 2010
Indictments cite identity theft
Published Friday March 19, 2010


By Leslie Reed

LINCOLN -- A federal grand jury has indicted 17 people who were arrested last week by immigration authorities at a Fremont packing plant.

U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg said Thursday that the 17 face charges such as document fraud, Social Security fraud, making false claims of U.S. citizenship and aggravated identity theft. The indicted range in age from 21 to 49.

Gilg said each of those charged is alleged to have used the identity of an American citizen who had complained of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

Most of the defendants live in Fremont and Schuyler, but their countries of origin include Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.

In recent years, Fremont has become a prominent battleground in Nebraska disputes over illegal immigration.

After the City Council rejected an ordinance to ban local residents from hiring or renting living quarters to illegal immigrants, some citizens mounted a petition drive to put the proposal on the ballot.

The Nebraska Supreme Court is weighing the city's attempt to block that vote on grounds that the proposal conflicts with federal law.

Leticia Zamarripa, an El Paso, Texas-based spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the arrests at Fremont Beef Co. were unrelated to the town's illegal immigration disputes.

Zamarripa said the agency ‚Äúdoesn't conduct sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately. Enforcement actions are based on intelligence and investigation. There's nothing random about them.‚Ä