The Price of Citizenship

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The going rate for American Citizenship is $725. (This includes fees for the application and a background check.) Because the process can be a bit complex, impatient individuals seeking citizenship sometimes take a shortcut by enlisting the services of unscrupulous fraudsters who promise faster results. Today’s fraudster, who was a citizen of the Republic of Georgia, was one of those shameless fraudsters who committed immigration fraud by promising his clients the moon, then stole their money and delivered nothing but disappointment.

Today’s fraudster, who previously lived in Queens, New York and Stamford, Connecticut, masterminded an immigration fraud scheme with the intent to obtain false immigration status from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for about 60 citizens from various European countries. (The cost for this service came at a high price – between $12,000 and $20,000 per person.) He arranged sham marriages between the aliens and U.S. citizens, so they could obtain immigration benefits. (Because it takes two to tango, the U.S. citizens were enticed to take part in the fake marriages with monetary compensation.)

Getting hitched for the purpose of gaining lawful permanent residence without the intention of forming a life together is considered marriage fraud under U.S. immigration laws. Before committing immigration fraud, perpetrators need to consider a few things before signing the marriage license. Once married, immigration authorities will expect to see photos of the wedding. (Perhaps some photos of guests and possibly a shot of cake being shoved in your mouth would do.) Then, the U.S. citizen spouse would have to file for a visa petition on your behalf and show evidence of sufficient income or assets to support their new spouse. After a ton of additional paperwork and jumping through hoops, there would have to be an USCIS interview. (They’ll want to see that the marriage is real through proof of birth certificates for children, shared real estate, bank accounts or car ownership.)

 The 52-year-old fraudster from Queens, New York pleaded guilty to immigration fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison. He’ll follow the time behind bars with two years of supervised release for masterminding the scheme. (The fraudster also must pay a $12,000 fine. What about paying back the money he stole – between $720,000 and $1.2 million?)  Once he is released from prison, he faces immigration proceedings. (Don’t let the door hit you on the rear on your way out of the country.)

The value of U.S. citizenship was a huge motivator in driving the fraudster’s victims to pay an enormous amount of money to gain the rights and privileges that come along with it. While the country welcomes immigrants from all over the world, it does not approve of obtaining citizenship through bogus marriages. (So, what’s the cost of defrauding the USCIS? Jailtime, fines, deportation, and a greatly reduced risk of ever obtaining citizenship). The moral of this story? There’s a heavy price to pay when those seeking citizenship do not follow the rules set up to preserve America’s legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity.

 Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release entitled, Former Stamford Resident Sentenced to Prison for Operating Extensive Immigration Fraud Scheme,” released on March 9, 2018.

John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that DAVID NIKOLASHVILI, 52, a citizen of the Republic of Georgia residing in Queens, New York, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to six months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, for operating an immigration fraud scheme.  Judge Chatigny also ordered NIKOLASHVILI to pay a $12,000 fine.

According to court documents and statements made in court, NIKOLASHVILI, formerly of Stamford, Connecticut, operated an immigration fraud scheme through which he attempted to obtain false immigration status from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for at least 60 citizens of European countries.  As part of the scheme, after aliens paid NIKOLASHVILI between $12,000 and $20,000, he would arrange sham marriages between the aliens and U.S. citizens in order to obtain immigration benefits for the aliens.  The U.S. citizens were paid to enter into the sham marriages.

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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.