Posted on December 10, 2019

US, ICE Seek to Denaturalize Former Mexican Olympian, Coach Charged with Sexually Abusing Child Athletes

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, December 9, 2019

The United States on Monday filed a civil denaturalization complaint against a 68-year-old gymnastics coach – originally from Mexico – who allegedly concealed his repeated sexual abuse of three minor female athletes throughout multiple immigration proceedings.

This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation – District Court Section (OIL-DCS). ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor also provided valuable consultation and support.

According to the Department’s civil complaint, José Vilchis, a native of Mexico, sexually assaulted girls at various gymnastics training centers in the greater Chicago area over a span of decades.

“Vilchis fraudulently gained U.S. citizenship by lying about the horrific, ongoing crimes he was committing against innocent children,” said acting ICE Director Matthew T. Albence. “His crimes and his fraud have justifiably returned to haunt him as the government pursues his denaturalization. The United States will not allow itself to be a safe haven for sexual predators.”

“The Department of Justice will do everything in its power to hold accountable those who sexually abuse minors,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “This individual’s abuse of his position of authority and trust to prey on his students is reprehensible, and but for his fraud on our immigration process, he never would have been granted a green card and never would have been permitted to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.”

The complaint alleges that beginning as early as 1985, Vilchis sexually assaulted gymnastics students – some as young as 12 – whom he was coaching; then he concealed his conduct throughout multiple immigration proceedings.

According to the complaint, Vilchis – who competed in gymnastics for Mexico during the 1968 Summer Olympics – coached aspiring gymnasts at the Beverly Gymnastics Center in Chicago, the American Academy of Gymnastics in Wheeling, Illinois, and other gyms in the Chicago area.

Vilchis became a U.S. permanent resident in 1991, and a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1997.

The complaint alleges that in his applications for those benefits, Vilchis concealed his criminal conduct, which began in the 1980s and continued through the time he naturalized, and therefore never lawfully obtained either status.

Vilchis is currently awaiting trial in Will County, Illinois, where he faces 18 criminal charges for sexually assaulting a minor in 2013 and 2014.

Those allegations, which concern conduct that occurred after Vilchis naturalized, are separate from the allegations concerning whether he unlawfully naturalized by concealing similar conduct against other minor victims in the 1980s and 1990s.

This case is being prosecuted by Aaron Petty and Kathryne Gray of OIL-DCS’s National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit.

The claims made in the complaint are allegations only; there have been no determinations of liability.