Albert Lea man indicted for identity theft, false claim of citizenship

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A 31-year-old Albert Lea man was indicted in federal court Wednesday for allegedly using the name and identity of a Texas man to help support a false claim of U.S. citizenship.

The indictment, which was filed in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, charges Jose Luis Tapia Montiel with two counts of making a false claim of citizenship and two counts of aggravated identity theft, according to a United States Attorney’s Office news release.

A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states Montiel is a citizen of Mexico and not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. However, in 2005, he purportedly was released from federal prison in South Dakota after serving time under the name and identity of the Texas man.

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The indictment states Montiel subsequently completed I-9 employment eligibility verification forms, using that same Texas man’s name and identity. Through those forms — filled out on Dec. 14, 2006, and again on July 16, 2008 — Montiel allegedly claimed to be a U.S. citizen or a national of the United States and, thus, eligible for employment.

The indictment also alleges that Montiel earlier secured the birth date and Social Security number of the Texas man in order to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license, which, in part, was used to complete the employment eligibility documents. Authorities pursued investigation of this matter after learning about the identity theft in August of 2009.

If convicted, Montiel faces a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison on each false citizenship count and a mandatory minimum penalty of two years on each aggravated identity theft count. All sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge.

This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Social Security Administration, and the U.S. Probation Office.