Last year the U.S. government unveiled a nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are leading this historic effort. Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration service scam
This initiative targets immigration scams involving the unauthorized practice of immigration law which occurs when legal advice or representation regarding immigration matters is provided by an individual who is not an attorney or accredited representative.
ICE has also long been pursuing immigration services fraud cases in part through its Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force offices across the country. In a recent case in West Palm Beach, Fla., ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested an individual in May of 2010 who had posed as an attorney and processed more than 3,000 fraudulent immigration applications.
ICE says Notarios and other illegal immigration service providers take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants trying to navigate the immigration system,” said ICE Director John Morton. “ICE will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to combat notario fraud and protect the integrity of the legal immigration system.”
Driver license scam
Undocumented immigrants across the country illegally obtained Missouri identification documents through an elaborate scheme, say law enforcement authorities.Officials say that 14 people have been charged in a $5 million conspiracy to provide thousands of Missouri identification documents to undocumented immigrants through a St. Joseph fee office.
According to the indictment the scheme started in November 2009 and involved more than 3,500 driver's licenses issued to undocumented immigrants from across the country. The defendants who live in San Antonio purchased state-issued birth certificates and Social Security numbers from Texas residents, then sent them to Missouri.The scammers then went with the undocumented immigrants to the license office to act as interpreters, using the Texas documents to get driver's licenses.
They charged undocumented immigrants paid $1,500 to $1,600 for the licenses.The Kansas City Star reports that immigrants who received the illicit documents face deportation and possible criminal charges.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.
The Puerto Rico Connection
In a press release on January 12 ICE reports the largest single fraud case ever for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.Hundreds of birth certificates, Social Security numbers and driver's licenses were sold for up to $2,500 a set as part of a black market ring based in Puerto Rico that operated from since at least April 2009, according to ICE Director John Morton.
"The vast majority were legitimate documents obtained by fraudulent or false means," he said.
The alleged ring consisted of suppliers, runners and brokers, who made coded phone calls asking for "skirts" for female customers and "pants" for male customers in specific "sizes", which referred to ages and identities sought, according to ICE.The documents would be sent through priority or express mail from Puerto Rico to brokers that operated in at least 15 states including Ohio, Texas, Florida and North Carolina, officials said.
Those documents often were then used to apply for a driver's license or a U.S. passport or to commit financial fraud.Puerto Ricans are often an attractive target because they are U.S. citizens with Hispanic surnames.
Morton said another 20 arrest warrants were issued on Wednesday in separate but similar cases, with 61 of 70 suspects either arrested or whose surrender was arranged.The investigation began with a tip from police in Illinois, which led to a nearly two-year undercover operation called "Island Express."
In July 2010, Puerto Rico began annulling all old birth certificates and began issuing new ones with security features to cut down on theft and fraud cases. Morton and Breuer declined to comment on whether the measure has worked.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.
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