Victims’ Options Limited in Fake Indian Tribe Case
BROWNSVILLE – A victim in a 2014 fraud case continues looking for answers. She wants to know if she'll ever get her money back and if her husband will gain legal status.
She’s part of a larger group who were taken advantage of by three people claiming to be from the Yamassee Indian tribe.
Humberto Reveles and Maria Isabel Lerma and an accused suspect in the case, Kerena Almedia Cedillo, took advantage of people who entered the country illegally.
They claimed to be part of an Indian tribe promising legal status if they paid them money to be a member of the Yamassee Tribe.
Reveles and Lerma were found guilty and are making payments to the federal government.
The money will go back to the hundreds of people who fell into this trap.
But one Rio Grande Valley family says the cash doesn't matter. The Ayala- Gonzalez family is desperate.
"With my job, that's how we manage. That’s how we've been managing, taking care of my kids, paying bills,” said the wife of victim Belinda Ayala.
Belinda Ayala-Gonzalez says she’s doing what she can to provide for her three children and husband. She is also dealing with her own health issues.
"I've been paraplegic since I was five years old. I have scoliosis and number of things,” she says.
In 2014, they met Reveles who claimed to be the chief of the Yamassee Indian tribe.
He promised Gonzalez legal status if they become members of the tribe, so they paid him $1,000.
"Because I wanted so bad to get his papers and we believed, you never know maybe that’s your chance,” says Ayala.
But the tribe is not recognized in the U.S. Ayala-Gonzalez’s husband says he was living in the shadows due to his status.
"I'm still hiding from everyone, the police, Border Patrol, the state, from everything because they are all calling immigration if you don't have some sort of identification,” said Jose Guadalupe Gonzalez.
Court documents show they are part of a restitution payees list. It shows the hundreds of other victims.
Gonzalez says they want their money back and most importantly, for her husband to be legal.
"Generally, the people that get scammed have entered the U.S. without documents. They call it entry without inspection. They’re not eligible to get any benefits while they are in the United States because they entered illegally,” said Immigration Attorney Lionel Perez.
Perez explained the victims’ options are limited.
“They can petition for the husband or wife and make sure they are not excludable or any of the grounds and they will get a green card,” said Perez.
Ayala-Gonzalez said they feel betrayed.
"To be honest people that don't even have the money gave them money from anywhere to be able to get their papers," said Ayala-Gonzalez. "And I understand them, and I understand what they are going through and I understand that he wants to help us but there's no way."
She says they learned a lesson by taking a risk. Now, they want to try and pursue the right to stay in the U.S. the legal way.
Perez explained there are five reasons someone is not eligible to get a green card. The first one is if someone has a contagious illness, a criminal background, part of a communist or terrorist organization, if they have any immigration violations and if they come to the U.S. with intent to live off the government assistance.
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