Tag Archives: Benefit Fraud Task Force

3 Florida Brothers Guilty of Marriage and Immigration Fraud

A federal jury found three Jacksonville brothers guilty of marriage fraud charges Thursday, February 7, 2013. The guilty verdicts resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the FBI, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Mowafak “Mike” Shahla, 43, Antoun “Tony” Chahla, 42, and Fadi Chahla, 40, were found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to enter into marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws, making false statements to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and unlawfully attempting to procure naturalization and citizenship.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, the brothers are Syrian citizens who recruited three U.S. citizens – two sisters and their sister-in-law – to enter into fraudulent marriages. The men entered into the marriages to become legal permanent residents, and then, citizens of the United States.

Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla entered into the fraudulent marriages in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively. They made cash payments to the women for participating in the fraudulent marriages. Some of those payments were made on a monthly basis. During part of the conspiracy, payments totaling $3,000 were made to one of the women in exchange for her traveling to Syria on two occasions. The first trip to Syria was to become engaged to Fadi Chahla, and the second trip was to enter into a fraudulent marriage with him.

Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla each made false statements in their applications for legal immigration status and citizenship. They also lied to immigration officers when they were interviewed about their fraudulent marriages. Prior to the interviews with the immigration officer, the couples met to discuss the details of their purported marriages and rehearse the stories they would tell the immigration officer.

As a result of their fraudulent actions, Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla became legal permanent residents of the United States, but the conspiracy was discovered by law enforcement authorities before their citizenship applications were processed. They are now subject to deportation based on their convictions.

The three women involved in the fraudulent marriages previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. They agreed to cooperate with the investigation and were each sentenced to two years of probation.

Each brother faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge and up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the other offenses. The sentencing hearings have not been scheduled.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Operation Knot So Fast” Nets 21 Involved in Marriage Fraud

Multiple indictments charging 21 individuals with conspiracy and/or immigration benefit fraud (marriage fraud) were unsealed Wednesday, September 5, 2012. The indictments resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, the FBI and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to court documents, Bethania Deschamps, 49, of Bronx, N.Y., conspired to recruit U.S. citizens to marry aliens so the aliens could fraudulently obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. Lawful permanent residence status is an immigration benefit that allows an alien to legally reside in the United States. Deschamps received a recruiting fee once an alien and a citizen were married. An individual named Ender Rodriguez and the citizens also were paid fees by the aliens as part of the conspiracy. Rodriguez used marriage petitions to prepare and file fraudulent documents with USCIS on behalf of the aliens.

Rodriguez was charged during the 2008 iteration of “Operation Knot So Fast,” an operation that targeted individuals who orchestrated fraudulent marriages in order to manipulate the United States’ immigration system. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration benefit fraud. On Sept. 30, 2008, he was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

Other indicted individuals include:

  • Fayzullohuja Mavlonov, 32, of Denver,
  • Jessica Santiago, 35, of Orlando,
  • Marcelino Brizon, 41, of Orlando,
  • Idalia Gomez, 54, of Orlando,
  • Akmal S. Nosirov, 32, of Uzbekistan,
  • Brienn Marie Lasley, 27, of Orlando,
  • Mariya Baran, 26, Kansas City, Mo.,
  • Eric Daniel Toro, 25, of Orlando,
  • Abubakir Khidirov, 27, of New Orleans,
  • Rosemary Torres Rosario, 26, of Kissimmee, Fla.,
  • Marlon Jimenez, 43, of Norcross, Ga.,
  • Edna Isabel Cosme, 41, of Kissimmee,
  • Recep Aksu, 50, of Daytona Beach, Fla.,
  • Grisel Ortiz, of 40, Orlando,
  • Volkan Aksoy, 34, of Orlando,
  • Gisela Cora, 26, of Orlando,
  • Rustamhon Bahriddinov, 26, of Charleston, S.C.,
  • Rachel Ruiz, 36, of Orlando,
  • Avazhon Jafarkhojaev, 31, of Charleston, and
  • Ixchell Bonilla, 28, of Orlando.

The maximum penalty for each violation is five years in federal prison.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,