Claudia Arreola, 35, of El Monte, owner of Los Angeles- based California Immigration Services and her employee, Leticia Gutierezz, 35 of Pico Rivera were taken into custody on Thursday for allegedly filing fraudulent green card applications on behalf of the immigrants married to U.S citizens and in a desperate need to obtain a permanent resident status.
“Fraud scams run by so-called notarios threaten the integrity of the immigration process and offer false hope to desperate people,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. The two women initially approved to charge $7000, but ultimately managed to earn a handsome $24000 by giving an assurance that they could fix immigration problems. Many people who got attracted to this bait borrowed the amount from their friends and family and had to face many more hardships leading to failure in receiving their green cards.
Claudia and Leticia were charged in a six-count indictment when arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The indictment stated that the two defendants filed the applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and included fraudulent I-94 cards which stood tried to prove that the immigrants, who actually entered illegally, had been staying there on visitor’s visa.
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles quoted, “Tragically, as is often true in such scams, at least some of the victims in this case could have obtained green cards legally.” He also expressed his opinion in this case by saying,” Instead, they placed their trust and, in many cases, their life savings in the hands of individuals who were focused on enriching themselves, rather than on helping hopeful immigrants realize the American dream.” The investigators also became aware of the fact that the money orders and cashier’s checks deposited by people in favor of USCIS had been collected by the defendants who had been controlling these bank accounts.
Six victims have been named in the indictment and it is suspected that there can be dozens more. The real face of CIS started to peep out in 2011 after HIS received leads from USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) directorate involving several suspicious benefit applications. Arreola and Gutierrez started CIS in 2006 and if now convicted, will have to face a statutory maximum penalty of 60 years in federal prison. This problem of unscrupulous immigration practitioners has now become a matter of concern and the initiative relies on federal, state and local resources to combat this issue.