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Old 08-23-2007, 10:51 PM   #96
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Thumbs up Group sued in connection with selling fake citizenship documents

Group sued in connection with selling fake citizenship documents

Andres R. Martinez
August 21, 2007 - 6:29PM
EDINBURG — The Texas attorney general sued an Edinburg pastor and two others in connection with a company that promised people U.S. citizenship if they bought a fake tribal citizenship certificate for $400.

“We have not seen a case like this, so brazen,” said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general.

The civil lawsuit alleges that Edinburg pastor Victor Ramirez worked as a representative of Kaweah Indian Nation Inc., a company based out of Wichita, Kan. Ramirez charged legal residents and immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley up to $400 as a representative of the Grand Chief Thunderbird IV, also known as Malcolm Webber of Kansas, according to the suit

Webber and Ralph Tipton of San Antonio were also sued. They promised those who bought the certificates automatic U.S. citizen-ship, according to the suit. The scam was based on a law that grants U.S. citizenship to members of federally recognized tribes. The Kaweah group was denied official recognition as a tribe by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1984.

Ramirez could not be contacted late Tuesday.

The investigation began after the Texas Civil Rights Project forwarded complaints about the company to the attorney general’s office about two months ago, Kelley said. It was unclear how many people were defrauded, Kelley said.

According to a letter on the Project’s Web site, there have been reports that Kaweah sold certificates in Georgia and California and that it charged as much as $1,400.

The attorney general’s office is investigating whether any other pastors or intermediaries sold the certificates knowing they could not grant anyone U.S. citizenship, let alone tribal citizenship.

The suit was filed in the 370th state District Court in Hidalgo County. Kelley said the first step in the case would be asking the judge to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Ramirez, two co-defendants and Kaweah from selling the certificates.

The organization may have sold the fake tribal certificate in other states, Kelley said. A U.S. attorney in Kansas is investigating the group, according to The Associated Press.

It was unclear if any other states or the federal government were investigating the group or its members.

A judge could fine the members of the group up to $20,000 for each certificate sold.

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