If U Defraud, U Go to Jail

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Many visas on Japanese passort

There are two classifications of visas required to travel to the United States – one for temporary visitors and the other for immigrants. The State department reports that there are more than 20 non-immigrant visa types that allow individuals to travel to the U.S. temporarily. Today’s fraudster used a U visa to commit immigration fraud by scamming his victims out of $750,000.

U visas are reserved for victims of criminal activity that either occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws. To qualify for one, the victim must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse from the criminal activity and possess information regarding the illegal act. (Law enforcement must also confirm that the victim has been or will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal.)

 Today’s fraudster is an immigration lawyer who hails from Fishers, Indiana. He defrauded the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and took advantage of more than 250 victims, who each paid him $3,000 to file visa applications.

For more than four years, he submitted false Applications for Advance Permission to Enter as a nonimmigrant on behalf of his clients. (The applications erroneously claimed his clients were victims of crime and had supposedly provided substantial help to law enforcement during the crime investigation.)

About 200 of the bogus applications included copies of a certification that the Hoosier lawyer obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. (Of course, they didn’t know he had acquired the false documentation that would help grant admittance into the country.) And, as you might guess, his victims were not aware of the fraud the lawyer had committed using their personal information.

The 45-year-old immigration attorney from the Indianapolis area pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft for submitting more than 250 fraudulent U visa applications. He was sentenced to 75 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for committing immigration fraud. The former attorney must also pay up to $750,000 in restitution to his victims for collecting the illegal fees.

Today’s fraudulent immigration lawyer is a perfect example of what happens to any attorney who undermines the public’s faith in our country’s institutions. Not only did his illegal actions damage the reputation of the legal profession, they also put public safety at risk and compromised homeland security. (Let’s hope this lawyer got the message – if U defraud by U visa, U will go to jail.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Immigration attorney sentenced to more than 6 years in prison for fraud,” published by The Washington Times on March 9, 2018.

An Indianapolis-area immigration attorney was sentenced to 75 months in prison for submitting more than 250 fraudulent visa applications, the Justice Department said.

Joel Paul, 45, of Fishers, Indiana, pleaded guilty in November to one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to submit fraudulent U-visa applications.

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.