2 defendants arraigned in tribal immigration case

Wichita, Kansas (AP) - A Mexican couple charged in what prosecutors allege is a multi-state immigration scam made their first court appearance during August as more details emerged about their involvement with a American Indian tribe that is not federally recognized.

Federal prosecutors allege the Wichita-based Kaweah Indian Nation recruited illegal immigrants by promising membership would protect them from deportation.

Angel Zamora, 38, was ordered held pending trial. His wife, Eduviges del Carmen Zamora, 44, was allowed to post a $15,000 bond and ordered to live in a halfway house in Harvey County pending another review of her detention status, according to the U.S. AttorneyÂ’s Office.

Both pleaded not guilty, a formality because federal magistrate judges at an arraignment do not have the authority to accept any other plea.

The Zamoras are charged with making a false claim of U.S. citizenship, making a false statement on an application for a Social Security card, making a false statement on a passport application, and one count of possessing a false document with intent to defraud the United States.

The government is investigating complaints that the Kaweah Indian Nation sold memberships to illegal immigrants who believe the tribal papers will exempt them from deportation. The complaints have come from people in Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, California, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson told the court that the defendants are associated with a man named Malcolm Webber, also known as Chief Thunderbird. He is one of the Kaweah tribal leaders.

Eduviges del Carmen Zamora is alleged to have driven 40 illegal immigrants from Long Beach, Calif., to Wichita where they unsuccessfully attempted to obtain Social Security cards.