Immigration scams targeted by coordinated effort

Last Updated: Friday, June 10, 2011 - 23:33

Houston: In an effort to stop scams that
charge immigrants for bogus services, US immigration officials
in Texas had sued two notaries public in Edinburg, accusing
them of offering fraudulent immigration services.

The officials are stepping up efforts to prosecute con
artists and educate immigrants about the schemes, according to
an executive summary of the initiative released today by the
US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The effort is starting in seven cities, New York, Los
Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Fresno, California, and
San Antonio, Texas and will expand nationwide, according to
the summary.

The scammers "target people who are among the most
vulnerable," said Edith Ramirez, a Democrat, one of the five
members of the Federal Trade Commission, in a statement.

Criminals lure victims by increasingly using the internet
as well as word of mouth, fliers and paid advertisements on
the radio or newspapers, the summary said.

The Obama administration held a news conference today in
Washington attended by officials from the citizenship and
immigration services agency, the FTC, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement and the Justice Department.

Often the scams involve someone posing as a licensed
attorney charging immigrants to file for benefits for which
they are ineligible or to furnish forms that the government
provides for free, according to the summary.

A common scam in Spanish-speaking communities takes
advantage of immigrants` confusion with the word "notario,"
the government said.

In many Latin American countries, a notario is a licensed
attorney while in the US the term refers to a notary, who has
authority to authenticate official documents.

"We are dedicated to protecting vulnerable immigrants
from those who seek to exploit them," said US Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) Director, Alejandro Mayorkas.

The Department of Justice, through US Attorneys` Offices
and the Civil Division`s Office of Consumer Protection
Litigation, is investigating and prosecuting dozens of cases
against so-called "notarios".

Last year, DOJ has worked with investigators at the FBI,
ICE, and USCIS, and with state and local partners, to secure
convictions?with sentences up to eight years in prison and
forfeiture and restitution of over USD 1.8 million.

This is in addition to the many actions at the state and
local levels that have been filed against individuals and
businesses engaged in immigration services scams.

ICE has also long been pursuing immigration services
fraud cases in part through its 18 Document and Benefit Fraud
Task Force offices across the country.

Meanwhile, FTC has made it easier for consumers to alert
law enforcement about these scams by creating a new
Immigration Services code in the Consumer Sentinel Network its
online consumer complaint database.

"This is a central location for consumers to report
complaints and for our law enforcement partners to find and
share information about scams," FTC Commissioner Edith Ram?rez
said.

Sentinel, as the network is called, is a secure online
database that holds more than 6 million consumer fraud
complaints.

PTI



First Published: Friday, June 10, 2011 - 23:33

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