Ex-Guatemalan police chief arrested on visa fraud charge

February 10, 2018 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Guatemalan police chief living in California was arrested Friday on a charge of visa fraud after authorities said he failed to disclose he had been charged with killing two political activists in his home country.

Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, 77, was arrested Friday in Los Angeles after being indicted by a federal grand jury earlier in the week, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said Valiente was charged in 1987 with killing two activists in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second-largest city and where Valiente was chief of the National Police. He pleaded not guilty and a trial was set for April 10.

Valiente was convicted twice but both convictions were overturned on appeal. An arrest warrant issued in 1993 for Valiente was rescinded in 2015.

It was unclear if there are pending charges in Guatemala against Valiente, who came to the U.S. in 2013 and has been living in Fontana, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said Valiente entered the U.S. with a lawful permanent resident card that’s considered fraudulently obtained because he did not disclose his arrest on the murder charges.

If convicted of visa fraud, Valiente would face up to 10 years in prison.

Valiente’s arrest comes as U.S. immigration authorities have been targeting various former members of the Guatemalan army in recent years.

Since 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested at least five alleged participants in a massacre that claimed more than 200 lives in the Guatemalan village of Las Dos Erres in December 1982.

The massacre took place at the height of Guatemala’s more than three-decade civil war, which claimed at least 200,000 lives before ending in 1996.

The U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to findings of an independent truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed.