The Fraud Examiner

Enforcement, Education, Collaboration: Fighting Immigrant Services Fraud
 

April 2012

By Yasmin Vazquez


“I just wanted to provide a better opportunity for my children.”
“I didn’t know the process to gain legal status.”


Immigrant communities have proven to be particularly vulnerable to fraud due to the cultural and language barriers faced by their populations. Within the past few years, the U.S. government has recognized a surge in immigration services scams. For this reason, a nationwide initiative instigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being widely enforced and publicized to combat the spike in fraud perpetrated against this group.


The initiative employs a three-pronged approach: enforcement, education, and collaboration. The first, enforcement, includes connecting victims of immigration fraud with qualified lawyers or representation to prosecute the scammers. The second involves educating immigrants about the different types of scams and informing them of the legal process to obtain citizenship. Collaboration encompasses different agencies at the local, state, and federal level working together to combat the problem.


Common Scams
The most common type of immigration services scam is the unauthorized practice of immigration law, which occurs when an individual claims to be an attorney and provides unauthorized legal advice or representation. Recent cases provide a better idea of the prevalence of this type of scam:

 

In January of 2011, Rafael Masso was convicted of immigration fraud and sentenced to up to six years in state prison. He claimed to be a member of the federal immigration authorities to provide legal services to unsuspecting Dominican immigrants.

Jennifer Lam pleaded guilty to grand larceny in March of 2012 in a New York County court. Lam posed as an attorney with the power to submit green card applications. She was able to steal approximately $14,000 from a Chinese individual seeking permanent residency in the U.S. under this false pretense.



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