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Former county resident indicted for passport fraud

A 62-year-old man who had been arrested on child sexual assault charges in California relocated to Henderson County and four years later fraudulently applied for a passport, the U.S. attorney's office said.

A federal grand jury sitting in Charlotte returned a criminal indictment charging Herbert Leonel Diaz with naturalization fraud and passport fraud, William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced on Thursday.

According to allegations contained in the federal indictment, while residing in Corona, Calif., from December 2003 to August 2006, Diaz had committed sexual crimes against a child and was subsequently charged with multiple state offenses. In August 2006, the minor victim reported Diaz’s criminal conduct to law enforcement authorities. The following day, Diaz left California and moved to Henderson County.
The criminal indictment alleges that in November 2010, while residing in Henderson County, Diaz signed and submitted an application for naturalization to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). Diaz lied on the application form he submitted by responding “No” to the question “Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” and also signed the form, certifying that his answers were true and correct, the indictment said.
As alleged in the indictment, in March 2010, Diaz appeared in person at the CIS office in Charlotte for a naturalization interview. During the interview, Diaz swore under oath that his responses on the naturalization application were true and correct. At the conclusion of the interview, Diaz signed his naturalization application in the presence of an officer and swore under penalty of perjury that the contents of his application were true and correct. On March 30, 2011, Diaz appeared again in person at the CIS office in Charlotte and participated in a naturalization ceremony. Diaz was granted U.S. citizenship and received a Certificate of Naturalization.

In May 2011, Diaz applied for a U.S. passport and submitted his Certificate of Naturalization as evidence of eligibility, the U.S. attorney said. The indictment alleges that Diaz also signed the passport application form, certifying that he did not knowingly and willfully make false statements or include false documents in support of his application. Diaz was issued a U.S. passport in June 2011. In July 2012, law enforcement arrested Diaz on an outstanding warrant from the State of California related to his sexual crimes against the minor victim and he was extradited to California. In March 2014, Diaz pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd acts with a child and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Stetzer was joined in making today’s announcement by Thomas Giles, Field Office Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO).
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
In making today’s announcement, Stetzer thanked ICE-ERO for their investigation of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Smith, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case. Diaz will be scheduled to appear in federal court in Charlotte. The maximum prison sentence for naturalization fraud and passport fraud is 10 years and a $250,000 fine per charge.