New Suspect in Fake Indian Tribe Membership Case Due in Court
BROWNSVILLE – A suspect accused of working with a couple who took advantage of people in the country illegally is set for trial next month.
Humberto Reveles was sentenced last year to three years in prison and Maria Isabel Lerma to five years of probation after pleading guilty to fraud charges.
The two were duping people in the country illegally into buying fake Indian tribe memberships. They told victims they would be allowed to live and work in the country if they purchased a membership to the Yamassee Tribe.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned Kerena Almeida-Cedillo is at least one other suspect accused in the fraudulent operation.
Although the cases against Reveles and Lerma have already been convicted, victims continue to come forward.
Brownsville resident Jose Guadalupe Gonzalez said his dreams of coming out of the shadows to live freely with his family were shattered.
“I found out everything was fake when I got that letter from the court… I believed in them because I wanted to legalize my status,” he said.
Gonzalez said he’s one of the nearly 200 who fell for the phony documents Reveles and Lerma were selling.
“He asked for $1,000 to take on my case… I was still willing to give them more money so I could get my papers and be able to work and give my children a better life,” he said.
Evidence discovered during the investigation led to the identification of Almeida-Cedillo.
A criminal complaint shows Almeida-Cedillo collected applications, processed them and took in fees from victims. She then sent them to the other so-called Yamassee tribal leaders.
Yamassee Tribe Head Chief Mico Hadjo said the tribe was also a victim.
“No legitimate tribe does that,” he said.
Immigration attorney Francisco Steven Tipton is representing about 20 people who bought the fake papers. He said his clients along with others out there are owed more than what they paid.
The courts ruled both Reveles and Lerma must pay restitution to their victims.
“They fall under as victims of extortion. Then they qualify for U visas,” he said.
Tipton said he’s been working for nearly a year to get those documents for his clients.
Almeida-Cedillo is set to go to trial on June 5.
Count on CHANNEL 5 NEWS to keep you updated.
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