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Woman indicted for posing as an immigration attorney in Tampa, Chicago


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4/27/2019

Woman indicted for posing as an immigration attorney in Tampa, Chicago

TAMPA, Fla. – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa is looking for additional potential victims of a Tampa woman indicted Tuesday on four counts of wire fraud and three counts of wrongfully using government seals in connection with a scheme in which she fraudulently represented herself as an immigration attorney to take money from victims for services she never provided in the Tampa and Chicago areas. This case was investigated by HSI and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to the indictment, Erika Paola Intriago, 44, of Tampa, who is not a licensed attorney, fraudulently portrayed herself as an immigration attorney offering immigration-related services on social media targeting persons from Spanish-speaking countries seeking immigration-related services.

Victims retained and paid Intriago to represent them in immigration-related matters before USCIS and other agencies. Intriago is accused of then creating fraudulent letters, emails, receipts, documents, and communications to send her victims to falsely portray the records as legitimate communications with U.S. government agencies when in fact she never filed or completed the necessary immigration paperwork for which she was paid.

Intriago is also accused of threatening and intimidating victims who complained about her conduct by telling them that she would report their immigration status to U.S. immigration authorities, which Intriago claimed would result in the victims being deported.

If convicted, Intriago faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud and up to five years in federal prison for each count of wrongfully using government seals.

Any person who was, or knows of someone who may have been, a possible victim is urged to contact the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or https://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank Murray, with United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez Middle District Florida office.






02/03/2019

印度学生全是假求学 这所大学员工全是ICE(移民与海关执法局)卧底


美国国土安全部移民与海关执法局设立假大学,诱捕假移民。(取自BBC)

白宫为打击假移民使出新招。密西根州“法明顿大学”招收逾百名印度学生,全是“假求学、真移民”,这所大学工作人员全是国土安全局卧底探员。涉案假学生恐遭遣送出境,印度外交部抗议美方设局钓鱼。

CNN报导,这所“法明顿(Farmington)大学”宣称于2015年成立,除了官网,还设有脸书专页和行事历,在假官网上可看到学生在课上和图书馆里专注学习,还有徜徉校园绿地的照片。这所“大学”大学部学费每年8500美元(约新台币26万元),研究所学费每年11000美元(约新台币33万元)。

但事实上,这全是国土安全部为了诱捕假移民所设下的诱饵。根据密西根州东部地方法院起诉书,法明顿大学是假学校,注册的“学生”都心知肚明。他们付钱申请假学生签证入境美国,假求学真工作。


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法明顿大学总部设在底特律郊区,只是一间办公室,校方职员全为国土安全部移民与海关执法局的卧底探员。

底特律媒体报导,在1月30日的扫荡里,共有130名假学生被捕,其中129人来自印度。这些人遭控民事移民罪名,若罪名成立将被遣送出境。另有8名招生人员因涉签证诈欺、藏匿非法移民牟利而被捕。

印度官员表示,这些人可能是受骗上当。印度外交部2日向美国驻德里大使馆提出抗议表示:“我们忧心遭拘留学生的尊严和健康,也希望他们可以尽速和印度大使馆人员会面。我们希望美方可以提供具体细节,定期更新学生近况,尽速释放他们,并且不要强制遣返他们。”

这并非美国当局初次设立假大学诱捕非法移民,2016年也有21名学生因注册北新泽西大学而被捕。






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02/03/2019

Fake University of Farmington in Michigan leads to 130 arrests

By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

In a nationwide sweep, federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have arrested 130 foreign students who were enrolled at a fake university in metro Detroit that was created by ICE to lure in students trying to remain in the U.S. 

"We have arrested 130 foreign nationals on civil immigration charges," ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell told the Free Press on Thursday. "This may increase."

ICE made the arrests in the early morning hours Wednesday, the same day federal indictments were unsealed that charged eight people, six of them from metro Detroit, in a visa fraud scheme. The sweep was one of the largest targeting immigrants from India in recent years, attorneys say. 

The eight defendants were charged criminally for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. But the 130 students were arrested on only civil immigration charges. 

The arrests took place across the U.S., in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Michigan, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, St. Louis, according to immigration attorneys. Some of the arrests of the students came at their homes early in the morning before dawn.


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The students had immigrated legally to the U.S. on student visas and had transferred to the University of Farmington so they could work, said attorneys. Out of the 130 students, 129 are from India and one is Palestinian, said ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls.

Federal prosecutors claim the students were aware the university was not running a legitimate operation. But attorneys who have spoken with students or with family and friends of those arrested are pushing back against the government's claims. 

Ravi Mannam, an immigration attorney in Atlanta, said the government's fake university "kind of hooked these students by promising them credits for their previous master's programs."

He said that what the University of Farmington was offering — allowing students to work while enrolled — is not unusual. And so the students may have thought it was an authorized university and work program through a type of F-1 visa known as CPT (Curricular Practical Training).

Michael Sofo, an attorney in Atlanta with Mannan and Associates said based on what he has heard about the students, it's "not been the case" that they were knowingly participating in an illegal operation. 

"There are specific universities who have advanced degree programs that primarily involved practical training from day one that allows them to enroll and the bulk of the time is spent working," Sofo said. The courses "can be done at a remote location. It doesn't have to be where they attend the university. ... Programs like this exist and they are legal."


ICE maintains that the students arrested were not in valid status because they were not enrolled in a full course of study as required by federal regulations. Prosecutors called it a "pay-to-stay" scheme.

ICE said that foreign students are granted what are called "F" and "M" visas to study in the U.S. and must maintain their legal status by enrolling in a university certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). ICE said that that since the University of Farmington did not offer courses, the students were using the program as a way to work.


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Many of the students are from India and were trying to pursue master's degrees. After they arrived legally in the U.S. on student visas, some of them sought transfers because of accreditation problems their universities had, said Mannam.

Mannam said that the officials at the university were telling students that they could enroll and work through the CPT program.

"They were in a distress situation and looking to transfer out to a different university and they saw the government website, the University of Farmington website," he said.
Logo of the University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Prosecutors say it is a fake university created by HSI of ICE, part of the Dept. of Homeland Security, to investigate student visa fraud. (Photo: Dept. of Homeland Security)

The students were led to believe by officials at the University of Farmington — who were actually with ICE — that the students could work while enrolled at the university.

The arrests and news of the fake university also made headlines in Indian newspapers and Telugu-language media outlets.

An official with the government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, K. Rama Mohana Rao, wrote a letter Thursday to India's Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj asking her to help the Indian students who have been arrested.

“All the students were made to believe that their admission was valid," said Rao in a letter posted on social media and also reported by the Times of India. Rao said many of the students came from poor and rural backgrounds.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security shut down a website they had been created for the University of Farmington. On the website, it now reads: "The University of Farmington has been closed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

It tells affected students to contact their local office of Homeland Security Investigations, the ICE agency that did the investigation and undercover operation.

Update: On Friday, the Indian Embassy in the U.S. released hotlines to call for help and information on the detention of the 130 students, 129 of which are from India. The numbers are 1-202-322-1190 and 1-202-340-2590 or email cons3.washington@mea.gov.in












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