- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Federal prosecutors are accusing two South Texas residents of selling membership in an American-Indian tribe as a way for people in the country illegally to avoid deportation.

Prosecutors said in a statement Thursday that 60-year-old Humberto Reveles and 31-year-old Maria Isabel Lerma, both of Brownsville, have been indicted on charges that include conspiring to commit mail fraud.

Authorities contend the pair sold membership in the Yamassee tribe, which is not federally recognized. The two allegedly provided tribal documents and claimed that those who became members could work in the U.S. legally.

Federal court records did not indicate how much they charged for membership.

Lerma is in custody and Reveles is expected to surrender in the coming days.

Mail fraud carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.

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