MIAMI, FL – A Cuban citizen and high-ranking official in the Cuban government living in Miami, Florida, was sentenced to six months in prison for making false statements in his application for lawful permanent residence and for theft of government funds.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro the of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Saul Santos Ferro, 74, previously pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in an immigration document and theft of government funds. Santos was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles of the Southern District of Florida who also ordered Santos to be removed to Cuba immediately upon completion of his sentence and pay restitution in the amount $12,522.28.
According to admissions in court documents, Santos made a number of lies and misrepresentations in his application to register as a permanent resident, which he knowingly presented to U.S. immigration authorities, ultimately obtaining lawful permanent resident status. Specifically, when he applied to register as a permanent resident, Santos failed to disclose his membership or affiliation with any organization, falsely stated that he never served in or been a member of a police unit and falsely stated that he never served in any situation that involved detaining persons. In fact, Santos served as a Major in the Cuban government’s Department of State Security or Departamento de Seguridad del Estado (DSE) for decades and was involved in arresting and detaining political dissidents in Cuba.
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Additionally, Santos admitted that he falsely stated that he never gave false or misleading information to any U.S. government official while applying for any immigration benefit and falsely stated that he never lied to U.S. immigration authorities to gain entry or admission into the United States and to obtain immigration benefits. In fact, Santos told a series of lies about his past employment with the DSE to U.S. immigration authorities in the course of obtaining authority to enter the United States on a visitor visa in 2011 and 2012.
Santos further admitted to receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to which he was not entitled. SSI is a program funded by tax dollars and administered by the Social Security Administration to provide the elderly and people with disabilities with cash for basic needs including food, clothing and shelter. Santos and his wife qualified for and began receiving SSI benefits in September 2014, but by April 2015, Santos and his wife misrepresented their living situation and began receiving more money than they were entitled to receive. Because of his misrepresentation, the Court held Santos responsible for over-payments, which amounted to $28,491.83.
The FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General with support from the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Rami S. Badawy of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the support of historian Joanna Crandall and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Cervantes of the Southern District of Florida, prosecuted the case.