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Couple accused of conning illegal immigrants

DADE CITY — Two illegal immigrants who had been bullied and swindled into silence stepped out from the shadows Friday, according to a report from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

And by doing so, they revealed they weren't the only victims.

The report says that Eugenio Riviera, 38, and his wife, Starann, 28, offered to help the two immigrants, Alicia Gonzalez and Horacio Candido, in obtaining their driver's licenses. The Rivieras had them sign some papers before leaving, which neither victim could read or understand. Though fraudulent, the papers said the victims gave the Rivieras power of attorney.

Investigators say the couple then drove the illegal immigrants to New Mexico, where both failed the driver's license tests.

Upon returning to Pasco County, Eugenio Riviera told the victims they had to pay $500 and give him their car. He told them that he had power of attorney and that he was a highway patrol officer and that "he had connections to turn them in for being illegal aliens in the U.S.," the report says.

Without consent, deputies say, the Rivieras used the victim's personal identification to open bank accounts and obtain credit. The victims tried to get the Rivieras out of their lives, the report said, but the Rivieras had their immigration papers and would not return them. The victims also said that they warned not to contacted police, the report said.

The victims told a friend about all of this and asked for help in getting their car back. The three of them then contacted the Sheriff's Office.

When deputies knocked on the Rivieras' door, Eugenio Riviera said he really did have power of attorney and produced the false documents, which deputies say he had made on his computer, with the U.S. Department of Justice seal as well as the seal for Pasco County.

When deputies searched the house, they found paperwork from more victims.

"Upon searching his one room, volumes of paperwork, including dozens of additional forged power of attorneys, were located, along with documents he used to obtain credit in the names of numerous people who have yet to be identified, checkbooks and fake identification cards," the report states.

Both Rivieras were arrested on charges of scheming to defraud and criminal use of personal information. They are being held in jail in lieu of $15,000 bail each. The Sheriff's Office is trying to identify all other victims.

The office also said that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is conducting a federal investigation.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

Couple accused of conning illegal immigrants 03/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 9:19am]
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