RSS

Tag Archives: HSI Document and 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.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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

Four Found Guilty for Marriage and Immigration Fraud

Federal juries found three individuals guilty of marriage fraud and one individual pleaded guilty to marriage fraud after an investigation 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).

On Monday, November 26, 2012, a federal jury found Abubakir Khidirov, 26, of New Orleans, guilty of marriage fraud. A separate federal jury found Rustamon Bahriddinov, 26, of Charleston, S.C., and Rachel Ruiz, 36, of Orlando, guilty of marriage fraud Nov. 21. Rosemary Torres Rosario, 26, of Kissimmee, Fla., pleaded guilty to marriage fraud Monday, November 26, 2012.

These individuals were indicted as part of Operation Knot So Fast 2012. The operation targeted individuals who orchestrated fraudulent marriages to manipulate the U.S. immigration system.

According to evidence presented at trial, Ender Rodriguez, a leader in the fraudulent marriage scheme, arranged the marriage of Khidirov, who was unlawfully present in the United States, to Rosario, a U.S. citizen. The marriage was arranged so that Khidirov could fraudulently become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. During the course of the conspiracy, Rodriguez introduced Rosario to Khidirov. Khidirov then paid Rodriguez $3,500 to arrange the marriage. In addition, Rosario received $5,000 to participate in the scheme. Rodriguez used the fraudulently obtained marriage certificate to prepare and file fraudulent petitions with USCIS on behalf of Khidirov. Both Khidirov and Rosario attended a marriage interview and lied under oath that they entered into a legitimate marriage, when, in fact, they had not.

Ender Rodriguez also arranged the marriage of Bahriddinov, who was unlawfully present in the United States, to Rachel Ruiz, a U.S. citizen. During the course of the conspiracy, Bethania Deschamps, another individual involved in the scheme, recruited Ruiz to marry an alien and introduced her to Ender Rodriguez. Deschamps, who worked with Rodriguez, received a recruiting fee once the alien and the citizen were fraudulently married. As part of the conspiracy, Bahriddinov paid $3,500 to Rodriguez for arranging the marriage and $5,000 to Ruiz for participating in the marriage. Ruiz then used the fraudulently obtained marriage certificate to prepare and file fraudulent petitions with USCIS on behalf of Bahriddinov. Both attended a marriage interview and lied under oath that they entered into a legitimate marriage.

Bahriddinov and Ruiz are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 28. Khidirov and Rosario’s sentencing hearings are scheduled for March 14. Each individual faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

Twelve other individuals have pleaded guilty to marriage fraud charges as part of Operation Knot So Fast 2012. They include:

  • Bethania Deschamps, 49, of Bronx, N.Y.,
  • Jessica Santiago, 35, of Orlando,
  • Idalia Gomez, 54, of Orlando,
  • Brienn Marie Lasley, 27, of Orlando,
  • Mariya Baran, 26, Kansas City, Mo.,
  • Eric Daniel Toro, 25, of Orlando,
  • Recep Aksu, 50, of Daytona Beach, Fla.,
  • Grisel Ortiz, 40, of Orlando,
  • Volkan Aksoy, 34, of Orlando,
  • Gisela Cora, 26, of Orlando,
  • Ixchell Bonilla, 28, of Orlando, and
  • Edna Isabel Cosme, 41, of Kissimmee.

Ender Rodriguez was charged in 2008 during the first iteration of Operation Knot So Fast. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration benefit fraud. On Sept. 30, 2008, he was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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