Imposter sent to prison after claiming to be federal immigration officer

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Handcuffed hands of a prisoner in prison, Male prisoners were severely strained in the dark prison, violence, human trafficking, prison and prisoner concept.

LAREDO, Texas – A 53-year-old Laredoan has been ordered to federal prison after he admitted to wire fraud and extortion under color of official right, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Rito Salomon Palacios pleaded guilty Sept. 9, 2020.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana ordered Palacios to serve a 57-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional information including testimony and evidence detailing the fraud scheme and the emotional and fiscal damage Palacios caused the victims. Four of them appeared in court and detailed the harassment and threats Palacios committed and the resultant ill effect on their lives.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Saldana noted how heartless Palacios was in relation to his victims as well as his history of thefts and lies and the unfortunate lack of real punishment in previous cases.

The court upwardly departed and raised his criminal history category by two levels to adequately reflect his criminal history. Judge Saldana also mentioned his threats and aggression and considered Palacios a threat to the community. 

Palacios masqueraded at varying times as an officer or employee of Customs and Border Protection, an immigration officer or another federal officer or employee. At the time of his plea, the court also heard he delivered receipts in documents bearing the seal of the Department of Transportation and Customs and Border Protection.

Palacios defrauded and extorted members of the public who were not citizens or nationals of the United States. He took money or property by false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises to deliver immigration visas, permits or residency in the United States. As part of the scheme, he utilized the internet to set appointments for his victims to be fingerprinted.

Palacios admitted as part of the plea that he demanded and obtained more than $72,000 from the fraud and extortion scheme.

Palacios was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Laredo Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno prosecuted the case.

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