A former supervisor with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and his former
girlfriend have been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to smuggling aliens
from the Philippines into the United States through Los Angeles International
Rita A. Cunanan, 43, of North Hills, was sentenced today to 36 months in federal
prison by United States District Judge Percy Anderson. Cunanan pleaded guilty in
October to federal charges of conspiracy and bringing illegal aliens into the
Maximiano R. Ramos, 54, of North Hills, a former supervisory immigration inspector
with the INS, was sentenced by Judge Anderson last Monday to 37 months in prison.
Ramos pleaded guilty in December 2002 to six federal charges, including conspiracy,
bringing illegal aliens into the United States and transporting illegal aliens.
Ramos resigned from the INS in July 2002, about one month after his arrest. Ramos
dated Cunanan during the time of the conspiracy.
Ramos and Cunanan participated in a scheme in which they and others conspired to
meet the aliens at their arriving flights, divert them from their connecting
flights and escort them past airport security. The aliens smuggled into the United
States were entitled to be in the country only briefly and solely because they were
passengers on international flights who were making connections at LAX as part of
the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) program.
Ramos, Cunanan and four others were named in a second superseding indictment that
was returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on December 12, 2002. Also
convicted in this case were:
* Agnes Cunanan, 47, of Canoga Park, the sister-in-law of Rita Cunanan, who was
sentenced to 8 months imprisonment on February 24, 2003;
* Vinzon S. Perez, 57, of Los Angeles, a former employee of Aviation Safeguards, a
company that escorted TWOV passengers for airlines, who was sentenced on April 7,
2003 to 36 months in prison;
* Eshraga E. Nugud, 41, of Torrance, another employee of Aviation Safeguards, who
was convicted by a jury on February 13, 2002, but is a fugitive who fled while
awaiting sentencing; and
* Agusto David Garcia, 52, of Panorama City, another Aviation Safeguards employee,
who was sentenced to probation on April 7.
* The scheme involving Ramos, Cunanan and the other defendants exploited the TWOV program. Under the program, aliens from certain countries, such as the Philippines,
are not required to obtain a visa if they are only stopping briefly in the United
States. Typically, such TWOV aliens are passengers who have arrived in the United
States on international flights and are connecting to another international flight.
* Airlines were responsible for completing paperwork for TWOV passengers and
providing it to the INS. Airlines contracted with private airport security
companies, such as Aviation Safeguards, which provided TWOV escorts to meet the
passengers when they deplaned and ensure that they boarded their connecting flight.
* According to court documents, Ramos and Rita Cunanan accepted payments for aliens to be brought into the U.S. The aliens would fly from the Philippines to LAX,
arriving while Ramos was on duty. Nugud met the aliens at their connecting flights,
and then escorted them past security and out of the terminal. Perez would pick up
the aliens and drive them to an apartment in Panorama City, where the aliens would
stay for several days until they were ready to be flown to their final destinations
in the United States.
Perez and Garcia would then drive the aliens from the
apartment to another airport, where they would fly to their final destinations in
the United States.