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Bakersfield residents appear in court on passport fraud charges

Posted at 1:25 PM, Apr 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 16:25:58-04

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and David Zebley, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service, announced today the recent prosecution of five separate passport fraud offenses. According to court documents, the defendants possessed United States passports for themselves or for others that were produced without lawful authority. Three of those defendants appeared in court today before U.S. Magistrate Stanley Boone in Fresno.

Rafael Antonio Guilarte Rojas, 39, of Bakersfield, was arraigned today. He is charged with possessing an identification document with intent to defraud the United States. He is alleged to have possessed a California driver’s license in a false name when Diplomatic Security Special Agents encountered him on January 5, 2017, while investigating the passport application he submitted in the same false name.

Luis Alberto Hecht Rojas, 33, of Bakersfield, was also arraigned today. He is charged with possessing an identification document with intent to defraud the United States. He is alleged to have possessed a California driver’s license in a false name when Diplomatic Security Special Agents encountered him on January 5, 2017, while investigating the passport application he submitted in the same false name.

Maria Cruz Lopez, 42, of Bakersfield, pleaded guilty today to possessing a false United States identification document. She possessed a United States passport issued to her in her identity, but with another person’s photograph on it on August 13, 2012. United States Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone sentenced Lopez to two years of probation, a $1,500 fine, and 60 hours of community service.

Luis Garcia Jauregui, 53, of Bakersfield, is charged with possessing a false United States identification document. He is alleged to have possessed a United States passport issued to him in a false name when Diplomatic Security Special Agents encountered him on November 19, 2015, while investigating the passport application he submitted in the same false name. On February 24, 2017, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

On February 2, 2017, Carolina Garcia Velazquez, 41, of Fresno, was convicted of possessing a false United States identification document. She possessed a United States passport that had been issued to her in a false name when Diplomatic Security Special Agents encountered her during the course of her false passport investigation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley Boone sentenced her to two years of probation, a $2,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service.

The defendants still facing charges face a maximum statutory penalty of one year in prison and a maximum statutory fine of $100,000 if convicted. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These cases are the product of an investigation by the Diplomatic Security Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan S. Richards is prosecuting the cases.