An El Paso woman accused of posing as a federal employee who promised to help process immigration applications "amassed more than $400,000 of unexplained wealth" in 18 months, authorities said.
Ana Maria Hernandez, 53, is accused of defrauding more than 20 immigrants and their families, but U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents believe she might have victimized many others.
HSI agents arrested Hernandez on Jan. 23 after a federal grand jury indicted her on Jan. 4 on 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of impersonating a U.S. government employee.
Hernandez allegedly posed as an employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and told undocumented immigrants and their families that she could process immigration applications for a fee, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas said in a statement.
While allegedly representing herself as working for the federal immigration agency, Hernandez allegedly claimed she could provide clients with legitimate U.S. immigration documents, according to the indictment.
The indictment stated that victims paid Hernandez for help in adjusting their immigration status for themselves, relatives and friends.
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An HSI investigation found that Hernandez might have allegedly defrauded victims of more than $400,000 and suspect she might have scammed more people than the ones already identified.
The indictment states that Hernandez allegedly contacted victims via telephone, text message, email and personal meetings. She instructed them to provide various identification forms and documents and was paid in cash, money orders and bank wire transfers. The alleged scheme dates back to at least 2020.
If convicted, Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison on each wire fraud count and three years on the impersonation count, officials said.
According to jail records, Hernandez, of the Lower Valley, remains held without bond at the El Paso County Jail in Downtown.
Anyone who was allegedly deceived and defrauded by Hernandez may call the HSI toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423.
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This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso woman accused in $400,000 immigration impersonation fraud