August 1, 2008

ICE impersonator targets undocumented immigrants

Updated: 8/1/2008 6:49:56 PM
By: Heidi Zhou

Police said Roberto Diosdado went to the South Point Village apartments in south Austin with a convincing offer for some residents: legal immigration status in exchange for $10,000.

"He has a magnetic sign that he puts on the car door, showing homeland defense and their emblem,"Detective Steve Dominguez, Austin Police Dept., said.

Police labeled Diosdado as a Mexican con-artist in the United States illegally.

"Him being a Mexican national, he is doing this to his fellow country, countrymen and country-women," Dominguez said. "I find that very disturbing. I find that offensive."

One family of victims came forward, via the Mexican Consulate. Police said the family paid Diosdado $13,000 to have their two children legally brought to the U.S.

"When he called them the last time to get money he said, 'Everything is ready. Have your family come to Laredo, Texas, at the border.' And the family came and spent the week there waiting for him, and suffered more," Dominguez said.

Police fear the one family's suffering only scrapes the surface. They said they know Diosdado hit more victims, but getting the victims to come forward poses a major problem.

"It's really a horrible crime," Christina Tzintzun of the Workers Defense Project said. "These are honest, hardworking families who are being taken advantage of."

Tzintzun's group is trying to help another family who fell victim to a similar scheme, possibly by the same man. Only that family lost $20,000.

"Paying $20,000 for a working family is a huge amount of money. This was something that numerous family members contributed to and really saved, and worked extra hard, hoping to secure legal immigration status in this country," Tzintzun said.

Their hope disappeared along with the man and their money.

The family reported the crime to police, thinking they had done the right thing, until a surprise visit from Immigration and Custom Enforcement.

Scared, Tzintzun said the family dropped the charges and went into hiding.

According to Tzintzun, it was the police who gave the family's contact information to ICE.

Dominguez disagrees.

"All I can say is we, I, the Austin Police Department, is not going to concern ourselves with that," he said. "We're going to only concern ourselves with the crime. As for the other agencies, I can't answer for them, That's the best I can do, I'm sorry. But I wish they would come forward. I really wish they would."

Advocates said that puts undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes in a hard place with no easy way out.

Police said the suspect also goes by the aliases of "Steve Starr", "Roberto Guerrera" and "Steve Collins." He is 35 years old, 5'7", weighs 210 pounds, and has light skin and light hair.

Police said he had an accomplice, Gabriela Valadez Mexquitic, an assistant manager at the apartments where the victims reside.

Anyone with information about the robbery or suspect is asked to call the APD robbery tip line at (512) 974-5092.

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