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2 South Texans charged with selling membership to fake tribe

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A man and woman have been charged with selling memberships for a non-recognized Indian tribe, telling illegal aliens that their membership would guarantee that they wouldn't be deported.

The Department of Justice said in a 12-count indictment that Humberto Reveles, 60, and Maria Lerma, 31, allegedly conspired to commit mail fraud and possessed with the intent to transfer five or more identification documents.

Reveles was reportedly additionally indicted for charges related to identification documents that appear to be issued under the authority of the U.S. for fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents, and for impersonatin a diplomat.

The indictment alleges Reveles and Lerma conspired to make money by selling memberships to the non-federally acknowledged Indian tribe, the Yamasee, claiming that the tribe allowed members to avoid deportation and to live and work in the country legally.

The DOJ said that tribal documents -- such as identification cards -- were sent to Reveles and Lerma via the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx. The ID cards they received allegedly carried a U.S. State Department authorization number on them, even though the number was assigned to a document from the State of Georgia, unrelated to the Yamassee tribe. Those cards were reportedly given to individuals on multiple occasions.

If convicted of the mail fraud conspiracy, Reveles and Lerma face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison, as well as a possible 15-year sentence on each count of conviction of possessing and transfering documents that appeared to be issued under the authority of the U.S. 

Reveles is also charged on two counts of impersonating a recognized diplomat on April 4 and Sept. 7. Those counts, along with the final count of fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents, all carry up to 10 years in federal prison, with a potential $250,000 fine.