TAMPA, Fla. – A Homeland Safety Investigations (HSI) Tampa activity pressure was awarded throughout the 69th Annual Lawyer Normal’s Awards ceremony earlier this 12 months. U.S. Lawyer Normal Merrick B. Garland acknowledged those that “have served selflessly to additional the [Department of Homeland Security’s] vital work upholding the rule of legislation, holding our nation protected, and defending civil rights.”
The Lawyer Normal’s Award for Fraud Prevention acknowledges distinctive dedication and energy to stop, examine, and prosecute fraud, white collar crimes, and official corruption. For his or her talent, skilled and dedication, an HSI Tampa profit fraud mission activity pressure was awarded for his or her efforts to safeguard the integrity of the nation’s immigration system by disrupting and stopping fraud to acquire illegal immigration advantages.
Particular Brokers Kristy Anderson, Alvis Lockart, and Yenixa Perez, in addition to Process Pressure Officer Ryan Doherty, and Assistant U.S. Lawyer Francis D. Murray had been lately awarded for “their extraordinary management and substantial contributions to the Justice Division’s ongoing efforts to eradicate and deter fraud towards immigrants in our group.”
From 2018, this multi-agency crew investigated and prosecuted a sequence of circumstances involving fraudulent schemes the place people falsely posed as immigration attorneys and focused undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking international locations who had been searching for Florida driver licenses and work authorizations. In whole, the schemes victimized a minimum of 359 migrants, most of whom had been from Central and South American international locations. The supposed losses exceeded $1.23 million.
“Immigrants, significantly these whose authorized standing is in query, are among the many most susceptible individuals in our society,” Anderson mentioned. ‘“Notario’ frauds and different attorney-imposter frauds concentrating on immigrants are an epidemic within the Center District of Florida and throughout our nation.”
The primary of those prosecutions was United States v. Erika Intriago. Intriago falsely marketed and portrayed herself as a licensed immigration lawyer, and at occasions, as a “notario” to Spanish-speaking immigrants. These immigrants paid her to characterize them in immigration proceedings earlier than U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Companies (USCIS).
Nevertheless, Intriago both by no means filed her client-victims’ petitions, deserted their petitions, or failed to tell her purchasers that their petitions had been denied. To hide and perpetuate her scheme, Intriago falsified letters and different correspondence from the Division of Homeland Safety (DHS) and USCIS.
“To make issues worse, she manipulated her victims by threatening to report their immigration standing to authorities after they confronted her,” Andersen mentioned. “Intraigo’s victims suffered extreme monetary hardship and dangerous penalties to their immigration standing.”
In 2020, Intriago pleaded responsible to wire fraud. She was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment and was ordered to pay $61,013 in restitution to 60 recognized victims. The Intriago crew was comprised of AUSA Murray, TFO Doherty and SA Anderson.
The second prosecution was United States v. Roberta Guedes. In 2014, Guedes graduated from legislation college however twice failed the Florida Bar examination. Undeterred, she integrated two faux legislation companies, marketed her authorized companies, and rented workplace area throughout the road from the US Lawyer’s Workplace. Guedes charged her client-victims, primarily immigrants, charges for authorized companies starting from immigration to family-law issues.
“Guedes misrepresented herself as an lawyer and impersonated a former legislation college classmate and licensed lawyer,” Perez mentioned. “Guedes filed court docket pleadings and immigration petitions utilizing that classmate’s identify and bar quantity and made a number of private appearances in immigration and state court docket. Whereas the Florida Bar investigated her conduct, Guedes falsified a third-party affidavit to undermine and discredit that investigation.”
Guedes pleaded responsible to mail fraud and aggravated identification theft. In 2020, she was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment and ordered to pay $14,318 in restitution.
The third prosecution was United States v. Elvis Reyes. Reyes falsely portrayed himself as an immigration lawyer to focus on undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking international locations searching for Florida driver licenses and work authorization. Reyes gave purchasers inaccurate and incomplete authorized and immigration recommendation to induce them to retain his companies.
He then filed fraudulent immigration functions within the client-victims’ names, searching for asylum reduction and withholding-of-removal protections supplied for beneath the U.N. Conference Towards Torture.
“Unbeknownst to the client-victims, Reyes falsified data within the functions – fabricating tales about threats, persecution, and the candidates’ fears of returning to their native international locations,” mentioned Doherty. “He didn’t inform the victims in regards to the authorized, administrative, and immigration-related penalties that may comply with from a denied asylum utility, reminiscent of rapid elimination proceedings.”
In whole, his scheme victimized roughly 292 victims with supposed losses exceeding $1.1 million. In December 2020, Reyes pleaded responsible to mail fraud and aggravated identification theft. On April 12, 2021, he was sentenced to twenty years and 9 months in jail.
“These criminals defrauded a whole lot of victims who thought they had been beginning a path to authorized citizenship,” mentioned HSI Tampa Particular Agent in Cost John Condon. “Identification and profit fraud are crimes that threaten the nationwide safety and public security of the U.S. by creating vulnerabilities to our authorized immigration system. Because of HSI particular brokers, and our excellent legislation enforcement partnership within the area, they had been held accountable for his or her crimes. That’s what we do.”
All three prosecutions had been extensively coated by English and Spanish-speaking information shops, in addition to in legal-news shops like Law360.
“The high-profile nature of the prosecutions had immense deterrence worth and helped bridge a spot between legislation enforcement and susceptible immigrants in our group,” Anderson mentioned. “The information protection has additionally inspired immigrant-victims in Florida to report comparable crimes to legislation enforcement—serving to bridge the hole between legislation enforcement and a extra remoted, distrustful, and susceptible inhabitants in our group.”