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Archive for Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tribal secretary gets lenient sentence

October 4, 2008

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— The secretary of an unrecognized American Indian tribe will spend no more time in prison for her role in a nationwide scam to defraud immigrants by telling them membership would make them U.S. citizens.

Eduviges del Carmen Zamora showed no emotion Friday as a judge handed down the lenient sentence prosecutors had sought.

The government had cited her substantial help in building its case against the Kaweah Indian Nation and its self-proclaimed leader, Malcolm Webber.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown sentenced the woman to time served and one year's probation.

She had earlier spent several days in jail before being placed in a halfway house and later released on bond.

Zamora, a native of El Salvador who worked as a secretary at the group's offices, made no statement before sentencing.

She pleaded guilty in July to a felony charge of not informing authorities that a crime was being committed.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Zamora could have gotten anywhere from 15 to 21 months in prison, according to court papers.

But the government sought a lesser sentence, noting that along with her trial testimony she spent many hours over more than six months helping the government prepare its case. Prosecutors also told the judge that the she may have been threatened for her cooperation.

A jury found Webber guilty in August of defrauding immigrants by falsely telling them tribal membership would make them U.S. citizens. His sentencing is Nov. 3.

Zamora, a lawful U.S. resident, told jurors that Webber told her to get a U.S. passport. She testified Webber also told her that as a tribal member she should update her status from resident to citizen at the Social Security Administration.

Webber was found guilty on six federal charges arising from the unrecognized tribe's efforts to sell memberships. The jury acquitted him on a conspiracy count relating to the passport incident with Zamora.

Zamora testified at Webber's trial that she gave Webber about $30,000 daily in membership fees received from the mostly illegal immigrants.

Her husband, Angel Zamora, will be sentenced Oct. 15 after pleading guilty to not notifying authorities of a crime. He volunteered as a janitor and driver at the tribal offices where his wife was employed.

But as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, he has remained jailed.

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