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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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