Filipina in California convicted of mail fraud, immigration scam
INQUIRER.net US Bureau
SAN JOSE, California—A 66-year-old Filipina “immigration consultant” was convicted of mail fraud and running a multimillion-dollar scheme that victimized Filipinos who hoped to get permanent residency but really had no chance of getting it.
A federal jury on Tuesday, July 30, convicted Evelyn Sineneng-Smith of three counts of encouraging or inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain and three counts of mail, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag.
The guilty verdict followed a 13-day jury trial before US District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte.
Evidence at trial showed that Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consultation business in San Jose, California, from 1990 to 2008. She advised foreign nationals, mainly Filipino citizens who came to the United States on visitors’ visas, to apply for a labor certification from the United States Department of Labor as path towards obtaining lawful permanent residence.
She charged her victims $5,900 to file such applications all the while knowing that the law had changed, and that her clients did not qualify under existing immigration regulations to obtain lawful permanent residence.
According to the testimony of several victims, Sineneng-Smith failed to inform them that they were ineligible to obtain permanent residence. In addition, Sineneng-Smith encouraged victims to overstay the time allowed under their tourist visas and work illegally in residential healthcare facilities.
Evidence at trial showed that Sineneng-Smith deposited over $3.3 million dollars in payments from clients from August 2004 through 2007.
“Those who corrupt the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system must understand there are serious consequences for those actions,” said Joseph Vincent, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, San Jose. “We will continue to work with our counterparts to investigate those who manipulate and exploit that system for their own personal financial gain.”
Sineneng-Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 14, 2010. She was charged with three counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain and three counts of mail fraud.
She will be sentenced on November 4, after the court considers post-trial motions. The maximum penalty for each count of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. She also faces 20 years for each count of mail fraud and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution.
Assistant US Attorneys Susan Knight and Philip Guentert prosecuted the case with the assistance of Tracey Andersen and Nina Burney, after a three-year investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.