Making Immigration Happen
Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens
A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigra

Tag Archives: visa fraud

Fugitive Utah Attorney Indicted for Alien Smuggling and Visa Fraud is Captured

A Salt Lake City immigration attorney who fled following his 2009 indictment on alien smuggling and visa fraud charges is headed to back to Utah after being captured while attempting to re-enter the U.S. on Christmas Day, 2012, at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego.

James Hector Alcala, 44, fled the U.S. in December 2010 and a federal arrest warrant was issued after he violated conditions of his pre-trial release. Alcala made his initial appearance in federal court in San Diego Dec. 26, 2012. Alcala waived his right to a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday, January 8, 2013, which now paves the way for his transfer to Utah in the coming weeks to face charges.

The case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and the U.S. Department of Labor uncovered an alien smuggling ring, of which investigators believe Alcala and his law firm participated.

Alcala, the Alcala Law Firm, Westside Property Management, and seven other individuals are charged with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling and visa fraud; encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to come to, enter, or remain in theUnited States; and visa fraud. According to the federal indictment unsealed in July 2009, the defendants conspired to profit financially by assisting Utah employers in obtaining H-2B visas for their foreign national workers by fraudulently representing to the federal government that the foreign nationals were eligible for visas when, in fact, they were not.

Carlos Manuel Vorher, 46, of Tooele; Andres Lorenzo Acosta Parra, 34, of Salt Lake City; and Westside Property Management have since pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their involvement in the case. Sentencing hearings are pending.

Charges against two individuals named in the indictment, Daniel Trigo Villavicencio, 34, of Oremand Gustavo Ballesteros-Munoz, 49, of West Jordan, have been dismissed by federal prosecutors. A fugitive warrant remains in place for Carlos Enrique Gomez-Alvarez, 44, of Salt Lake City, who fled the country in 2009 after his arrest and initial appearance on the charges in New York.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah.

Former Lawyer Sentenced for Visa Fraud, Money Laundering, and Obstruction of Justice

The onetime head of a now defunct Los Angeles law firm was sentenced Thursday, November 15, 2012, to 10 months in prison for his role in orchestrating a lengthy employment visa fraud scheme where the illicit profits were used to purchase several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of vacant cemetery plots and grave monuments.

Joseph Wai-Man Wu, 53, former president of the East West Law Group, pleaded guilty in August 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice. As part of a plea agreement reached in February, Wu surrendered a portion of his profits derived from the visa fraud scheme, forfeiting to the government 30 vacant cemetery plots and 20 grave monuments, all of which were purchased with proceeds from the scam. Wu used the cemetery plot purchasing scheme to launder some of the money he unlawfully obtained through the visa fraud scheme. The grave plots will now be sold at public auction and the proceeds given to the U.S. Treasury.

Wu’s sentencing is the latest development in a 2 ½-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that also involved the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

In pleading guilty, Wu admitted that, from approximately 1996 to 2009, he and other members of the law practice set up nearly a dozen shell companies in order to file at least 137 fraudulent employment-based visa petitions for nearly 100 alien clients. In return for filing those fraudulent petitions, the clients paid Wu and his co-conspirators anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000. Many of the petitions were for H-1B visas, which the government reserves for foreign workers with specialized skills, such as accountants and information technology professionals. Authorities say the aliens named in those visa applications never worked for the defendants or the fictitious companies.

“Our agents encounter a lot of unusual money laundering schemes, but this is the first time we’ve come across a case where the suspects sought to bury their profits by buying cemetery plots,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “As this case makes clear, HSI will go where ever the evidence takes us to ensure that those who compromise the integrity of the visa process are held accountable for their crimes.”

The other two defendants charged in the case were Kelly Einstein Darwin Giles, 49, the only attorney at the former East West Law Group, and Wu’s wife, May Yim-man Wu, 46. Giles, who pleaded guilty Sept. 19 to conspiracy to commit visa fraud and obstruction of justice, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 17, 2013. May Wu, who played a minor role in the conspiracy, is participating in a pretrial diversion program.

Prosecutors say the case represents the first time in the Central District of California where federal investigators uncovered a scheme involving the purchase and sale of cemetery plots as a means to launder criminal proceeds. While the situation is highly unusual, funeral professionals claim grave sites appreciate at a rate of up to 10 percent a year and are less susceptible to economic downturns than other types of real estate.

Eight Arrested After Foreign Student Fraud Target Operation

Eight of nine people were arrested Tuesday, June 5, 2012, for their alleged participation in a widespread foreign student visa fraud, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

HSI special agents executed three search warrants, including two at school campuses
located in Iselin and Jersey City. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to obtain and use phony visas and conspiracy to conceal illegal aliens.

According to court documents, Dhirenkumar Parikh, 34, of Old Bridge, N.J., was the president, owner and registered agent of Vision Career Consultants USA Inc. (VCC), located in Iselin, NJ. VCC operates as an intermediary between students and various academic institutions within the United States, recruiting students for the institutions in exchange for a referral fee and assisting students with the application process. Parikh and his co-conspirators defrauded the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) by providing foreign nationals, for a fee, the documents needed to obtain student visas, without verifying any of the foreign nationals’ information.

“Americawelcomes people from around the world to come to the United States to enrich themselves with remarkable educational opportunities through the Student Exchange and Visitor Program,” said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Newark. “Those schools, however, that choose to misuse this program by permitting ineligible persons to remain in the country illegally, thereby corrupting America’s legal immigration system and potentially do us harm, will be brought to justice.”

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program opens educational opportunities to deserving foreign students and enriches the educational environment at our schools,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “Their actions highlight the need for constant vigilance in protecting all avenues of entry into this country. The defendants tried to corrupt this worthy program to enable illegal entry into the country and to reap personal profit.”

Parikh and others allegedly ran their criminal enterprise through VCC and American  Health and Technology Institute (AHTI), formerly known as “PC Tech Learning Center LLC,” a school that was certified by SEVP to enroll foreign students. In addition to  counterfeiting documents and falsely certifying that the foreign nationals had met AHTI’s school admission requirements, the defendants falsely certified attendance records and actively assisted some students with hiding their prior violations of immigration law.

Count One of the Complaint – conspiracy to obtain and receive student visas for entry into and as evidence of authorized stay in the United States, knowing that the student visas had been procured by means of false claims and statements, and otherwise procured by fraud and unlawfully obtained – is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Count Two – regardless of the fact that aliens had come to, entered and remained in the United States in violation of law, conspiring to conceal, harbor and shield from detection
such aliens, for commercial advantage and private financial gain – punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

The charges and allegations are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Texas Businessman Sentenced for Visa Scam

The head of a local staffing business was sentenced on Tuesday, February 28, to 41
months in federal prison in connection with an H-2B visa fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Robert Pittman, Western District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jose Ramiro Vicharelly, 55, of Cedar Park,  Texas, was the president and executive director of International Staffing Solutions Inc., doing business as, Texas Staffing Resources (TSR). In addition to the prison term, he will be placed on supervised release for three years after he completes his prison term. Vicharelly was also ordered to forfeit about $312,000 in criminal cash proceeds and five vehicles derived from this illegal scheme. A $1 million
monetary judgment was ordered against Vicharelly and the other four defendants in this case, which represent the proceeds of the fraudulent scheme.

Vicharelly pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit visa
fraud and one count of conspiracy to encourage aliens to illegally enter and reside in the United States. Vicharelly admitted that he and others had conspired since August 2004 to
knowingly obtain H-2B visas under false pretenses.

According to the court records, the defendants approached several Austin businesses and offered to obtain H-2B visas for foreign nationals to work for their companies, or obtain visas for the illegal aliens already working in their companies. Unbeknownst to employers, the defendants then submitted fraudulent visa petitions with forged signatures or bogus supporting documentation requesting significantly more foreign workers than required or requested by employers. The defendants sold excess slots on visa petitions to other illegal aliens in the Austin area for between $1,500 and $2,200 per slot.

The defendants also traveled to Mexico to help aliens prepare and submit immigration forms, coaching them on what to say when interviewed by U.S. consulate officials, and collect final payments from undocumented aliens.

Following are the four other defendants in this case: Vicharelly’s wife, Irma Lopez
Vicharelly, 29; his daughter, Angela Paola Faulk, 32; Faulk’s husband, Servando
Gonzalez, Jr., 25, of Austin; and, former TSR account manager, Pedro Saul Ocampo Munguia, 44, of Pflugerville, Texas, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud. In November 2011, Judge Yeakel sentenced Faulk to 17 months in federal prison; Irma Vicharelly and Gonzales each received two years probation. Munguia failed to appear for sentencing and is considered a fugitive.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Guess, Jennifer Freel and Garth Backe, Western District of
Texas, prosecuted this case.