Thursday, February 4, 2010

Immigration fraud - Spartan Group

United States Attorney's Office District of Connecticut
Press Release

Kevin J. O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent-In-Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Investigations in Boston, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport has returned a 12-count Superseding Indictment charging JOSEPH SANTOS, also known as Jose Santos and Joe Santos, age 49, a native and citizen of Portugal formerly residing in New York, with various offenses related to an alleged scheme that defrauded hundreds of illegal aliens of several million dollars. The Superseding Indictment was returned on October 15, 2006, and was ordered unsealed May 16, 2007, by United States District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport.
SANTOS, who came to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 1971, is a fugitive from justice and believed to be currently residing in Portugal.
According to the Superseding Indictment, in approximately 2004, SANTOS and others began operating Spartan Group, an immigration services company with eight offices located in Stamford, Connecticut; Brooklyn, New York, (two offices);Yonkers, New York; Maspeth, New York; Ridgewood, New York; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Chicago, Illinois. From 2004 to approximately September 2005, SANTOS devised a scheme to defraud aliens illegally present in the United States. Spartan Group told the alien clients that in exchange for a fee of approximately $18,000 to $21,000, Spartan Group would file for immigration benefits that would result in the aliens obtaining a social security card, work authorization, and ultimately, a lawful permanent resident card (“green card”). The aliens were directed to make initial payments of approximately $6,000 and in many instances were told to provide cash.
The Superseding Indictment charges SANTOS with 10 counts of mail fraud related to I-140 Applications (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) that he mailed in which he falsely stated that the businesses listed in the applications had petitioned the aliens for an immigrant visa when he knew that the information was not true.
The Superseding Indictment further charges SANTOS with one count of preparing false applications for immigration benefits, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“This defendant is alleged to have defrauded more than 300 individuals and earned several million dollars from his scheme,” U.S. Attorney O’Connor stated. “This Office is committed to bringing charges against those who prey on vulnerable individuals seeking assistance for immigration matters.”
If convicted, SANTOS faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the mail fraud charges; a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the preparing false applications charge, and a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000 on the money laundering charge. The Superseding Indictment also seeks the forfeiture of any money or property involved in SANTOS’ alleged money laundering offense.
“Immigration fraud is a serious matter that undermines our nation’s immigration system and our national security,” stated ICE Special Agent-In-Charge Foucart. “Criminals use immigration fraud for their own personal and financial gain in disregard of the laws of this country. ICE will continue to investigate immigration fraud and seek to prosecute those who engage in it.”
U.S. Attorney O’Connor stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is being investigated by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), with the assistance of the United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, and the Norwalk Police Department. The Attorney General’s Offices in Connecticut and New York, and Attorney Michael DiRaimondo have provided valuable assistance to the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Krishna R. Patel.

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