Washington, DC - The Justice Department Thursday filed a denaturalization lawsuit against the former leader of a drug organization responsible for conspiring to distribute more than 40 kilograms of cocaine and 1,600 kilograms of marijuana, conduct he allegedly concealed during his naturalization proceedings. The civil complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Florida.
“It is important for the Department of Justice to protect the integrity of the naturalization process,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “In this case, the defendant allegedly concealed his serious criminal activity—large-scale drug trafficking that put the health and safety of our communities at risk. We cannot tolerate, and will zealously pursue, this kind of fraudulent activity.”
Melchor Munoz aka Melchor Munoz-Correa, 42, a native of Mexico, was convicted pursuant to a guilty plea in 2012 of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(ii), and (b)(1)(B)(vii). As admitted in his criminal proceedings, Munoz distributed to co-conspirators an average of 80 pounds of marijuana on approximately 60 separate occasions between 2008 and 2010, keeping 400 to 500 pounds of marijuana, gallon zip-lock bags of methamphetamine, and multiple blocks of cocaine on hand most of the time. In 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida found that Munoz was a leader of the drug organization and sentenced him to 188 months’ imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Munoz is currently serving his sentence at a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia.
Although Munoz’s crimes began while he was a permanent resident of the United States, he was not arrested and his criminal proceedings did not occur until after he had naturalized. The civil denaturalization complaint alleges that Munoz concealed and affirmatively misrepresented his criminal conduct throughout his naturalization proceedings, and that his application would have been denied had immigration authorities known about his drug conspiracy.
“This criminal led a drug organization responsible for conspiring to distribute massive amounts of cocaine and marijuana, all while he defrauded the government during his naturalization process,” said Derek Benner, HSI Deputy Executive Associate Director. “Today he is being held accountable for his lies and stands to lose one of the greatest benefits our country offers, citizenship, which he obtained by defrauding immigration authorities.”
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS). The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Ari Nazarov of OIL-DCS, with support from ICE’s Orlando Office of the Chief Counsel and ICE-HSI Tallahassee.
The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.