EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A federal judge sentenced a Houston man to more than three years in prison for defrauding a worker visa program, Department of Homeland Security officials announced Wednesday.
On Jan. 3, 2019, Marco Pesquera, 45, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud. He’s the owner of a business that provides large industries with laborers, but according to a news release, profited by paying foreign workers an hourly wage below the contract rate.
From 2011 to 2018, Pesquera and three co-conspirators recruited and paid individuals to petition for H-2B visa workers that they didn’t need. Investigators said Pesquera illegally filed false and legitimate documentation — contracts, tax forms, web sites and fictitious phone numbers and business addresses — to obtain visas for more than 1,000 foreign workers to work in the U.S. Pesquera then utilized the workers to fulfill labor contracts.
Also charged were Norma Linda Vega, 46, of Houston; Saul Atkinson, 47, of Brownsville; and Gwendolyn Saldivar, 41, of Snellville, Georgia. They, too, pleaded guilty.
“HSI’s message is clear: America’s legal immigration system is not for sale,” said Shane Folden, the special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio. “In addition to posing significant security and safety vulnerabilities that could be exploited by criminals and others who pose a danger to our community, immigration benefit fraud undermines the integrity of our legal immigration process and penalizes those who abide by the law.”
In Brownsville federal court Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez sentenced Pesquera to 38 months in prison and three years of supervised release, according to a news release. Rodriguez also ordered Pesquera to forfeit $5 million and his Houston residence.
Additionally, Pesquera admitted to obstructing the investigation by responding to a federal subpoena with false documents he created. He must surrender Oct. 4 to begin his sentence at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.
“DSS and our counterparts are conducting investigations like these on a daily basis around the world to protect the integrity of the visa process, the security of the homeland and the American workforce,” said Jeffrey McGallicher, special agent in charge of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service Houston Field Office.