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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.

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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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ICE Deports Two Criminal Alien Sexual Predators

Two Mexican nationals convicted of sexual assault in Arkansas were removed from the United States Monday, November 26, 2012, by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Candelario de la Cruz-Gutierrez, 33, and Jesus Arredondo-Jasso, 24, were detained by ICE following their release from local custody due to convictions for sexual assault. In additional to their sex crimes both men have multiple prior arrests for unlawful entry into the United States and were identified by ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing criminal aliens.

“ICE will continue to focus its enforcement operations on identifying, arresting and removing sexual predators and convicted criminals from our community,” said Philip Miller, ICE field office director for ERO New Orleans. “Criminals in Arkansas should be on notice – ICE will find you and bring you to justice.”

According to agency records, ICE took custody of Arredondo-Jasso May 21 at the East Arkansas Regional Corrections Facility, where he was serving a prison sentence for felony sexual assault. Arredondo-Jasso was initially deported in 2007 following his illegal entry into the United States along the Texas border. In 2008, ICE arrested Arredondo-Jasso for again illegally entering the United States; he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful re-entry and was deported again.

ICE took custody of Cruz-Gutierrez Oct. 27 at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility after he was sentenced to probation following a felony conviction for sexual assault. Cruz-Gutierrez was previously caught illegally entering the United States along the Texas border in 2008 and again in 2009. The U.S. Border Patrol and ICE returned Cruz–Gutierrez to Mexico both times.

ERO is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ERO also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or those criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Largely as a result of these initiatives, for three years in a row, ERO has removed more aliens than were removed in fiscal year 2008. Overall, in FY 2011 ERO removed 396,906 individuals nationwide –the largest number in the agency’s history. Of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed, were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors –an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals since FY 2008. This includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence. ERO achieved similar results with regard to other categories prioritized for removal. Ninety percent of all ERO’s removals fell into a priority category and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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2 South Korean Women Deported for Sex Trafficking and Fraud

Two South Korean women – one wanted in her native country for sex trafficking, the other for large scale financial fraud – were turned over to South Korean law enforcement representatives at the airport in Seoul Thursday, November 29, 2012, by officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Kyung Hwa Choi, 39, and Sun Hee Kim, 42, were returned to South Korea by commercial aircraft, accompanied by officers from ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Choi is the subject of a South Korean arrest warrant issued in March 2008 charging her with financial fraud. According to the warrant, between 2000 and 2008, Choi and a partner operated a trading business that duped investors out of the equivalent of $8 million. One month after that warrant was issued, Choi entered the U.S. on a tourist visa, which authorized her to remain in the country for no more than six months. Last month, Choi was arrested at her Adelanto home by ERO officers, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force. An immigration judge subsequently granted Choi voluntary departure under safeguards to South Korea.

Kim, meanwhile, faces charges of sex trafficking in her native country. Earlier this year, the South Korean consulate in Los Angeles alerted ERO about the outstanding criminal warrant. The warrant accuses Kim of “buying” three Korean women for $20,000 in 2005 and forcing them to work as prostitutes in Los Angeles. ERO officers took Kim into custody in August and she was ordered removed by an immigration judge in October 2012.

“Foreign criminal fugitives who seek to escape responsibility for their actions by fleeing to the United States will find no sanctuary in Southern California,” said Timothy S. Robbins, field office director for ERO Los Angeles. “As these two cases make clear, ICE is working closely with law enforcement agencies here and abroad to protect public safety and hold criminals accountable – no matter where they commit their crimes.”

Robbins noted that the capture and repatriation of growing numbers of foreign criminal fugitives shows the significant public safety benefits of expanded cooperation and communication between the Department of Homeland Security and foreign law enforcement agencies.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 500 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE’s Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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ICE Prostitution Sting Arrests 64

The arrest of 64 men and women for solicitation of prostitution was announced Friday, September 28, 2012, by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the San Antonio Police Department.

“Operation Polar Bexar” was a nine-hour operation that took place Sept. 21. The operation was a proactive human trafficking enforcement action focusing on the demand for prostitution. The 64 arrested were charged with soliciting a prostitute. In addition to this state charge, 17 from Mexico and Honduras also face federal administrative charges for being in the country illegally. Once their state case is fully adjudicated, each will be turned over to ICE and placed in removal proceedings.

According to Bexar County Sheriff Amador Ortiz, a team of detectives posed as prostitutes. Those arrested showed up on foot, on bicycles and in personal and company-owned vehicles offering to pay for various forms of sexual encounters. Once a deal was made, they were immediately arrested upon entering a local hotel room.

“Today we want to send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated in our communities,” said Sheriff Ortiz. “Local authorities will go after you and bring you to justice.”

“HSI was proud to support the Bexar County Sheriff in this operation. Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement, 64 individuals were taken off the streets,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who commit this crime are held accountable for their actions.”

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting these cases.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Bridgeport Attorneys Counsel Family Divided By Deportation, Speak Out Against Federal Program Targeting Illegal Immigrants

M.C. Law Group immigration attorneys Alex Meyerovich and Amy Morilla Miller met recently with the Molina family of Stamford, which has been experiencing firsthand the painful effects of being separated from a loved one by the barriers of immigration law enforcement.

With the introduction of the federal immigration regulation program Secure Communities — that was recently put into effect statewide in Connecticut — there may be more families sharing the Molinas’ pain.

Secure Communities unites the resources of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement in order to more effectively identify, detain, and remove criminal and/or illegal aliens. The program was launched in 2008 and was implemented statewide in Connecticut earlier this year. The program is scheduled to be in effect nationwide by 2013.

Under the Secure Communities program, any set of fingerprints taken by local law enforcement will automatically be sent first to the FBI for a criminal record check, and next to ICE for an immigration status check. If the database checks reveal a match to a criminal record and/or an illegal or “otherwise removable” immigration status, the individual will be immediately detained and subject to deportation proceedings.

According to the program’s records, since October 2011 alone, Secure Communities has removed over 110,000 criminal aliens, including 39,500 removals of criminal aliens convicted for aggravated felony abuses such as murder, rape, and child sex abuse.

Despite the program’s success in detaining and removing serious criminal alien offenders, it conversely has the ability to remove aliens with no criminal record whatsoever. Attorney Alex Meyerovich, who opposes the program, argues that the ability for local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants for minor offenses, which can result in their deportation, represents an overzealous and unnecessary extension of ICE’s power. Meyerovich and other critics of the program point to this and more potentially negative side effects of the program as major flaws of Secure Communities.

“On the surface, Secure Communities sounds like a very reasonable program. But what it means in reality is that every time an alien comes in contact with the police, they will have an increased fear of deportation,” said Meyerovich. “This fear means there will be a decreased incentive to talk to the police, which means crime — and more specifically, domestic abuse situations and traffic accidents — is less likely to be reported by immigrant communities.”

In addition to underreported crime, Meyerovich argues that the uniform deportation of non-criminal aliens — often with established lives, businesses, and families in the U.S. — is another detrimental side effect of Secure Communities, and one that has the potential to rip many families apart.

“It’s completely absurd,” said Meyerovich. “An alien can live here for years, pay American taxes, work in or start an American business, and have American spouses and children, but with Secure Communities, one encounter with local law enforcement can potentially mean a non-negotiable ticket back home.”

The Molina family knows the pain of a family member being deported all too well. Meyerovich and fellow M.C. Law Group attorney Amy Morilla Miller represent the family in their attempts to return Sandra Payes-Chacon — wife of U.S. citizen Rony Molina, and mother to U.S. citizen children Evelin, 19, Alex, 11, and Ronald, 8 — to her home in Connecticut.

Payes-Chacon was detained and deported to her native country Guatemala in 2010, and is now barred from entering the U.S.for ten years. All of the family’s legal attempts to rectify her situation — including a request for humanitarian parole sent to the Department of Homeland Security — have been denied.

In her absence, Rony Molina and his children must continue to endure the heartbreaking reality of being cut off from their wife and mother for ten years. Payes-Chacon herself is suffering from severe depression due to the separation.

“The children really need the presence of their mother,” said attorney Morilla Miller of the Molinas’ situation. “This family is being divided unnecessarily.”

Although Payes-Chacon’s deportation did not occur because of Secure Communities, critics caution that as the program continues to expand, cases like the Molina family’s will become more frequent. What troubles Morilla Miller about this prospect is the unsympathetic attitude that she increasingly sees towards these unnecessary deportations.

“Some people might want to dismiss what this family is going through, and say that the husband and children should just pick up and move to Guatemala, but that’s ridiculous,” said Morilla Miller. “Her husband is a U.S. citizen. Her children are U.S. citizens, born and raised here like any American child. Guatemala is not only a foreign country to them, but one with poor employment and educational prospects, limited access to medical resources, and one of the worst crime rates. What American would want to raise their family in an environment like that?”

As Secure Communities gets closer to its goal of nationwide implementation by 2013, debates over immigration reform and the rights of immigrants are sure to intensify. The rights of illegal immigrants is a hotly contested issue among politicians and American citizens alike, with many arguing for stricter immigration regulation and harsher consequences for those who enter the country illegally.

However, Morilla Miller fervently opposes such measures, and sees the current debate over illegal immigration as blatantly ignoring America’s storied history of welcoming immigrants.

“America was founded on the scores of immigrants who came to this country in pursuit of a better life, ” Morilla Miller said. “At some point, virtually every American citizen’s ancestors were immigrants. So what’s the point of fighting for the rights of immigrants to stay in this country? You. If someone had turned away your immigrant ancestors, then you wouldn’t be here either.”

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Attorney Alex Meyerovich Speaks Out Against ICE Secure Communities Program

By: Mallory Huron

Bridgeport,CT– Local attorney Alex Meyerovich spoke out recently against the federal Secure Communities program, which went into effect statewide in Connecticut on February 22.

Secure Communities, launched in 2008, is a federal program that combines the resources of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement.

Through the program, any set of fingerprints taken by local law enforcement will automatically be sent first to the FBI for a criminal background check, and next to the ICE database for an immigration status check. If there is a match to a criminal record, and/or ICE records show that the individual is in the U.S. illegally, or “otherwise removable,” the individual will be detained and subject to deportation proceedings.

As of October 2011, the program cites over 110,000 removals of immigrants convicted of crimes, which includes 39,500 removals of immigrants convicted of aggravated felony offenses such as murder, rape, and child sex abuse. The program is set to be in effect nationwide by 2013.

However, although the program is designed to target immigrants convicted of serious and often violent crimes, some claim that it will have possible detrimental side effects.

M.C. Law Group immigration attorney Alex Meyerovich, who opposes the program, discussed the potential pitfalls of Secure Communities on Wednesday, February 22, when the program went into effect across Connecticut.

“For many people, it’s a challenge,” Meyerovich said of the program’s consequences on Wednesday. The program is already proving challenging – and controversial – with many arguing that it could have the problematic consequence of effectively turning local law enforcement into ICE immigration officers.

Secure Communities insists that local law enforcement officers are not given any additional responsibilities under the program, nor are they instructed or authorized to enforce federal immigration law. However, concerns about possible misuse of power linger, as well concerns over the larger impact for local communities.

“This program will probably do more damage to the communities than good,” said Meyerovich. “It creates a disincentive for immigrants to call the police, ever.”

This disincentive, Meyerovich argues, could pose a serious threat to community safety. Immigrants may begin to fear any interaction with local law enforcement, and may avoid reporting anything from car accidents to domestic violence disputes for fear of potential deportation. He maintains that if any resident, whether they reside in the U.S.legally or illegally, is dissuaded from alerting the police about matters of public and personal safety, then Secure Communities will actually be creating insecure and unsafe communities.

Watch the full News12 Connecticut interview with Attorney Meyerovich below.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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