ALBANY — One of nearly 30 undocumented immigrants arrested in Saratoga Springs in recent weeks fell prey to an undercover investigation by a federal agent who knocked on his door, court papers show.
Victorico Catarino Ramirez was one of two Mexican immigrants arrested Tuesday by U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement in the latest round of arrests. Ramirez was charged with visa fraud, a felony, an agency spokesman said, while the other immigrant, who was not identified, faces administrative immigration violations.
Last week, ICE agents arrested nine Mexican immigrants, one Guatemalan and one unaccompanied minor, charging three with felony counts of alleged re-entry after deportation and the others with violations. The arrests followed 16 arrests of undocumented immigrants — one from Guatemala and 15 Mexicans — on May 30. Nine of those individuals face the felony charge for alleged re-entry.
The arrests have received criticism from human rights activists and city officials, who say immigrants work hard-to-fill jobs in the city’s hospitality and horse-racing industries.
An abandoned backpack discovered May 30 at the Hudson Falls Post Office led customs officials to seek Ramirez out, according to court documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Albany. It contained a Mexican passport, a social security card, a green card, a photocopy of another green card — all with Ramirez’ name on them — and a cell phone displaying the home-screen message: “bring it back to 32 waterbury st apt4 saratoga spring,” wrote Justin Jones, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent, in the court filing.
On Tuesday, after obtaining the backpack and its contents from the United States Postal Inspection Service, an ICE deportation officer knocked on the door of the Waterbury Street address, Jones wrote. When faced with Ramirez, the agent presented him with the passport, green card and social security card.
“Ramirez acknowledged that the items belonged to him, immediately took possession of them, and placed them in the right pocket of his shorts,” Jones wrote. “[He] then took possession of the remainder of the property.”
The undercover agent then revealed his identity and placed Ramirez under arrest before taking him to ICE’s office on Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham, the papers state. Ramirez' fingerprints were entered into a federal database, and investigators found he had never been issued a green card or social security number. There was also no record of his lawful entry into the U.S..
After being read his Miranda rights in Spanish and waiving them, Ramirez again admitted to owning the green card and social security card and that he knew they were fraudulent, Jones wrote.
Ramirez said he purchased the cards for $150 “from an unknown individual in Saratoga Springs” and used them to gain employment at several Spa City businesses, according to the court papers.
Federal investigators initially suspected Ramirez’ green card was fake because of poor printing quality and a lack of security features, the papers state. They traced the fraudulent green card’s citizenship number to an individual born on June 17, 1940, who immigrated to the United States from Greece.
Investigators found the photocopied green card suspicious because of its poor printing quality and because it had Ramirez’ name on it, but with a different citizenship number, which they traced to a woman.
The social security card also had bad printing, weak security features and did not belong to Ramirez, investigators found.
Ramirez was in U.S. District Court in Albany on Friday to answer to the charge, which comes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000 upon conviction, according to federal prosecutors.
During the short proceeding, federal Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel waived Ramirez’ right to a bail hearing, saying ICE has placed an immigration detainer on him, and returned him to Albany County Correctional Facility.
Hummel spoke to Ramirez, who wore orange prison garb, through a Spanish translator after federal public defender Matthew Trainor said he spoke “some English.”
“He’s been in America for quite a while now,” he said.