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Former INS Employee Arranged Fake Marriages for Immigrants, is Indicted for Marriage Fraud and Alien Harboring

A past applications-adjudicator for the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been indicted by a Bay Area grand jury on nine criminal counts stemming from his alleged role in a marriage fraud scheme.

Andrew Chojecki, 61, a naturalized U.S. citizen who most recently resided in Poland, is charged in an indictment handed down Thursday, December 6, 2012, with conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, marriage fraud, and alien harboring. The charges are the result of a two-year probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partner agencies on the San Francisco Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

Six additional defendants are accused of conspiring with Chojecki to commit the fraud. They are; Beata Szkop, Malgorzata Zuk, Aaron Goldsmith, Pawel Karolak, Vito Scherma and Hector Vargas. The latter four defendants are also charged with alien harboring.

According to the indictment, unsealed Monday, Chojecki allegedly facilitated fraudulent marriages in exchange for cash payments from at least April 2010 through November of 2012. The indictment claims Chojecki introduced aliens and U.S. citizens to each other for the purpose of entering into sham marriages to evade U.S. immigration laws. The indictment further alleges Chojecki provided the aliens with fraudulent immigration forms he prepared, sample questions he anticipated they might be asked by immigration officials, and guidance on steps aliens should take to make the marriages appear legitimate. In exchange for these services, Chojecki allegedly required the aliens to pay an initial lump sum at the time of the wedding, which he split with the U.S. citizen spouses, with additional sums payable to the spouses when the aliens received their green cards.

Chojecki was arrested in Los Angeles Nov. 23 when he arrived on a flight from Poland. The following week a magistrate judge in Los Angeles ordered Chojecki released on a $170,000 unsecured bond, with the condition of electronic monitoring. Prosecutors have appealed that release order to the district court in San Francisco on the grounds that Chojecki is a flight risk. Defendants Szkop, Karolak, Vargas and Zuk were arrested Monday, December 10, 2012, and made their initial appearance in federal court. Defendants Goldsmith and Scherma remain at large.

Each count of conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, and marriage fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of alien harboring is 10 years in prison. The government is also seeking forfeiture of assets arising out of the conspiracy and alien harboring counts.

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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Puerto Rican Woman Indicted for Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

A Puerto Rican woman was indicted Wednesday, October 10, 2012, by a federal grand jury on prostitution and sex trafficking charges. The indictment follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the indictment, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3, Betsian Carrasquillo-Peñaloza, 34, of Loiza, Puerto Rico, recruited, enticed, harbored and transported a 14-year-old female identified as N.M.C.C. to engage in commercial sex acts. Carrasquillo-Peñaloza allegedly knew that the female was a minor.

“Sex trafficking is a deplorable crime, especially when it involves underage victims who are particularly vulnerable,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “Prostituting young girls is a growing threat in our area, and we encourage anyone with information about this activity to call law enforcement. Your call could save a girl from sexual slavery.”

On Oct. 3, HSI, working jointly with Puerto Rico Police Department officers in the vicinity of Isla Grande in San Juan, arrested Carrasquillo-Peñaloza for transporting a minor with the intent to prostitute. A federal grand jury formally charged the woman with an additional charge of sex trafficking Oct. 10.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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“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.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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