Friday, November 30, 2012

Attorney Alex Meyerovich Speaks Out Against Human Trafficking

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- M.C. Law Group Attorney Alex Meyerovich spoke out recently against the rise of human trafficking, also known as "modern day slavery," in the United States.

Reported cases of human trafficking have risen 60% in 2011 compared to 2010, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (HTRS). In fact, reported cases of human trafficking have been steadily increasing for the last five years. Attorney Meyerovich offered a simple explanation for this increase in human trafficking during a recent interview with Connecticut News12.

"Human trafficking is a lucrative business. It generates billions," said Attorney Meyerovich of the industry.

Human trafficking occurs when a victim is held hostage and forced to work against their will. Victims are commonly coerced into becoming commercial sex workers, drug traffickers, or laborers in unregulated industries. Additionally, these victims are often held in deplorable conditions, and suffer physical and sexual abuse.

Local attorneys like Meyerovich are speaking out alongside lawmakers to raise awareness about this prolific, but often unnoticed, human rights issue. In fact, Senator Richard Blumenthal recently joined with Senator Robert Portman of Ohio to co-chair the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. The caucus will provide a platform for its thirteen members to combat human trafficking and promote increased awareness about this serious issue.

"This kind of modern day slavery is intolerable," Senator Blumenthal told Connecticut News 12. "These people are treated as inhuman."

Human trafficking goes unnoticed by most citizens because victims are often hidden in plain sight. Traffickers prey on society's most vulnerable, targeting children and young girls, disabled individuals, and illegal immigrants. These vulnerable victims are not likely to seek help for fear of retribution: if they attempt to escape or alert authorities, they suffer horrific abuse and threats of violence -- or worse.

"If they don't obey, they're likely to be killed," Meyerovich said of the impossible situation these victims are placed in.

Attorney Meyerovich, whose firm specializes in immigration law, knows how particularly susceptible illegal immigrants are to human traffickers. Meyerovich explained that immigrants pay alien smugglers exorbitant fees to be brought into the U.S. illegally. Once they arrive, the smugglers demand additional payment for their services, which immigrants cannot afford. They are then coerced into forced labor to repay their "debts," and are held hostage indefinitely. Victims are constantly intimidated with threats of being reported to immigration enforcement, and even the murder of themselves and their loved ones.

"These immigrants risk everything for a better life in the U.S., and instead are forced to endure a nightmare of unimaginable abuse when they arrive," said Attorney Meyerovich. "They are scared, often don't speak English, and have no knowledge that U.S. immigration laws protect victims of human trafficking, regardless of their legal status."

However, U.S. citizens are just as vulnerable to being forced into labor in their own country. While HTRS reports 70% of labor trafficking victims are undocumented immigrants, 80% of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens.

"Most American citizens would react with fury and outrage if they knew about it," Senator Blumenthal commented.

Local attorneys like Meyerovich and prominent lawmakers like Senator Blumenthal hope that increased awareness about human trafficking will help turn the tide against modern day slavery. To learn more about human trafficking, including how to recognize victims and report suspected cases, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. To learn more about Senator Blumenthal's involvement in the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, visit his official website.

To watch the full interview featuring Attorney Meyerovich and Senator Blumenthal, watch the video below.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Eligible Haiti Nationals Reminded to Re-register for Temporary Protected Status by November 30, 2012

Eligible nationals of Haiti (and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Haiti) who currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must  re-register for TPS by November 30, 2012. Failure to re-register by this deadline may result in the loss of your TPS status. If you re-register after November 30 2012, you must provide good reason you could not re-register on time such as hardship due to Hurricane Sandy.
Details and procedures for re-registering for TPS are provided on the USCIS website and in the Federal Register notice announcing the extension of TPS for Haiti.
TPS was originally designated for Haiti in January 2010 in response to a catastrophic earthquake that devastated that country. TPS was re-designated in May 2011 (effective July 2011). The current 18-month extension of TPS for Haiti will remain in effect through July 22, 2014.
Also, if you have applied for and are awaiting a new Haiti TPS-related Employment Authorization Document (EAD), your current EAD, set to expire on January 22, 2013, has been automatically extended for 6 months. The 6-month auto-extension of EADs runs through July 22, 2013, as described in the Federal Register published on October 1, 2012 (77 FR 59943). These auto-extended EADs have “A12” or “C19” listed under “category” on the front of the card and an expiration date of January 22, 2012.
When providing proof of employment eligibility remember to provide both your EAD with the January 22, 2012 expiration date and a copy of the October 1, 2012 Federal Register notice to your employer.  For further guidance for employers and employees, please refer to the USCIS Web page, "Documentation Employers May Accept and Temporary Protected Status Beneficiaries May Present as Evidence of Employment Eligibility."
For more information on TPS, visit For additional information, applicants may also contact USCIS at 1-800-375-5283.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Owner of Chicago Massage Parlor Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking and Harboring Illegal Aliens

A former northwest suburban massage parlor owner was sentenced Monday, November 26, 2012, to life in federal prison for crimes including sex trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens, confiscating passports to further forced labor, and extortion. These crimes were committed against four foreign women whom he mentally and physically abused while forcing them to work for him.

The life sentence resulted from a joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Cook County Sheriff's Office. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office assisted in the investigation, which was coordinated by the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Alex Campbell, 47, formerly of Glenview, Ill., operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mt. Prospect, Ill. He used violence and threats of violence to force three women from Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, little to no subsistence between July 2008 and January 2010.

Campbell, aka "Dave" and "Daddy," called himself "Cowboy." He was sentenced to life in prison Nov. 26 by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, Northern District of Illinois, and ordered to pay about $124,000 restitution. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
"They (the victims) have a life sentence – all of them...and their life sentence at your hands compels a life sentence for you," Judge Gettleman said in imposing sentence.

Campbell was convicted at trial in January of three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work, and one count each of sex trafficking by force, and extortion. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life on the sex-trafficking count alone, and the judge also imposed maximum prison terms ranging from five to 20 years on each of the remaining counts, to run concurrent with the life sentence.

"The seriousness of Campbell's crimes cannot be overstated, nor could the government put into words the magnitude of harm or the life-altering consequences of Campbell's actions...An evaluation of the seriousness of what Campbell has done must necessarily begin by looking at his victims, whose lives he upended, dreams he shattered, ideals he undermined, and whose faith in humanity he so cruelly crushed," the government argued in urging a life sentence.

"If you treat human beings as property, to be branded, beaten, raped and sold, the law will punish you to the greatest extent possible," said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "This sentence ensures Alex Campbell's incapacitation, which will prevent him from victimizing other women."

"Alex Campbell abused women by violently coercing them into labor and commercial sex. By working together with law enforcement and community groups, those women were able to testify about that abuse," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "Today's sentence is a victory not only for the department and the Human Trafficking Task Force, but also for those women who so bravely came forward and told the truth about their exploitation."

"This life sentence sends a clear message to those who think they can callously prey upon vulnerable women to turn a profit," said Gary J. Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of HSI Chicago. "The servitude, abuse and torture of other human beings will not be tolerated. HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who engage in human trafficking are held accountable for their actions."

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose sheriff's police initiated the investigation, said, "I am extremely proud of the effort and resolution of all the agencies involved with the successful investigation, conviction and now sentencing of such a violent individual."

All four victims testified as government witnesses at trial, as well as co-defendant Danielle John, 25, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. She was sentenced previously to three years' probation. In addition to the trial victims, the government presented evidence of about 20 women victimized by Campbell.

The trial showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his "family," which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support. He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration, and lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him. After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them. At the same time, he acquired the women's passports and visas. The women were forced to work long hours every day and do as Campbell instructed them, and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him.

Trial testimony established that Campbell confiscated passports and identity documents from three of the victims, as well as harbored and transported them to ensure their continued labor.

Campbell forced one victim to engage in commercial sex acts with customers at other massage parlors, but not at the Day and Night Spa, which testimony showed he operated "cleanly" to avoid problems with law enforcement. He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the "family" by threatening to send a sexually explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane MacArthur and Steven Grimes, Northern District of Illinois, and John Richmond, Special Litigation Counsel with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, successfully prosecuted the case.

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that HSI investigates. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. HSI relies on tips from the public to dismantle these organizations. Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared. HSI encourages the public to report suspicious activity by calling HSI's Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or report tips online.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Columbian Criminal Defense Attorney and Government Employee Arrested for Selling Confidential U.S. Extradition Information to Drug Traffickers

Early Friday, November 16, 2012, in Bogotá, two Colombian nationals were arrested for obstructing justice by selling sensitive and confidential U.S. law enforcement information to a narcotics trafficker, concerning prosecutions in New York. The arrests are the result of an extensive investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Freddy Mauricio Tellez-Buitrago and Adriana Gonzalez-Marquez were arrested Friday, November 16, 2012. Tellez-Buitrago is employed as an administrative services assistant at the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia, International Affairs. Gonalez-Marquez, a former prosecutor at the attorney general's office, is now a Colombian criminal defense attorney. The indictment charging the defendants with obstruction of justice was unsealed Nov. 16 in New York.

The defendants' arrests resulted from an HSI investigation which revealed that Tellez-Buitrago had specialized access to law enforcement materials, including requests from the U.S. government for the extradition of alleged Colombian drug traffickers. Typically, the Colombian authorities treat such extradition requests as sensitive and confidential until the arrest of the individual whose extradition is sought. Tellez-Buitrago is charged with accepting bribes from Gonzalez-Marquez in exchange for leaking documents relating to U.S. extradition requests for narcotics traffickers. Gonzalez-Marquez, in turn, allegedly sold the information to a narcotics trafficker for $30,000.

"The defendants allegedly abused their positions of trust by conspiring to sell confidential and law enforcement sensitive documents to criminal organizations," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "This betrayal jeopardizes the integrity of the criminal justice system and threatens the safety of federal agents in the United States and Colombia. The arrests of Gonzalez-Marquez and Tellez-Buitrago are a culmination of the joint efforts between HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Colombian authorities to root out those individuals with the potential to undermine an international investigation."

"Extradition requests are part of the fabric of international criminal law, and contain some of the most sensitive information transmitted between countries," said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, Eastern District of New York. "The defendants are charged with leaking this sensitive and confidential intelligence information in pursuit of dollars and pesos. To satisfy their own greed, the defendants attempted to compromise the judicial process, obstructing justice here and in Colombia, and placing the lives of law enforcement personnel and potential witnesses in jeopardy. They plotted to capitalize on the borders that divide our countries. But the defendants did not anticipate the international cooperation of law enforcement in the United States and Colombia. We will continue to take every action necessary to ensure that the international criminal justice system is never corrupted."

"Turning his back on our justice system, Tellez-Buitrago allegedly used his clerical position to provide confidential information in exchange for cash," said Brian Crowell, special agent in charge of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York. "Had it not been for our diligent investigators, this information could have jeopardized U.S. and Colombian law enforcement missions. Tellez-Buitrago and Gonzalez-Marquez's alleged criminal acts would have facilitated drug trafficking organizations attempts to poison our communities."

If convicted, Tellez-Buitrago and Gonzalez-Marquez each face up to 20 years in federal prison.
This investigation was led by HSI, with the assistance of the DEA, Colombian National Police and the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Soumya Dayananda, Eastern District of New York, is prosecuting this case on behalf of the U.S. government.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Alien Smuggling Scheme that Resulted in Fatality

A south Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday, November 14, 2012, to alien smuggling and harboring that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old Mexican national in September 2011, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Lewey Martinez, 31, of Falfurrias, pleaded guilty Nov. 14 to alien smuggling and harboring before Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack. The government detailed that for five years, Martinez coordinated transporting aliens around the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint in Falfurrias. On the evening of Sept. 15, 2011, Martinez arranged for about 20 illegal aliens to hike around the checkpoint with the assistance of brush guides. After walking around the checkpoint, the aliens were driven to a stash house on Martinez's property.

Shortly after the group's arrival, two brush guides drove to the stash house with an additional alien who died from exposure and dehydration. Martinez and two others loaded the victim's body into a pickup truck and drove it to a public intersection. Martinez then called the emergency operator from a payphone and directed police to the body.

Following his arrest, Martinez admitted his role in the smuggling operation and his involvement in disposing the body.

Martinez faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 25. He will remain in federal custody pending sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

USCIS Expands e-Request Immigration System

USCIS has expanded the services offered by the e-Request system.  This Web-based tool allows customers to inquire about applications and petitions submitted to USCIS.

On November 19, customers will see the following enhancements to e-Request:
*               Create a service request for all forms to either inquire about the status of your application or petition if it is outside of the normal processing time OR notify USCIS about an administrative error in a notice or document the USCIS sent you.
*               For Forms I-90 and N-400 only, inquire about an Application Support Center appointment notice or other notice you were expecting to receive.
*               Accessibility to individuals with disabilities (section 508 compliant).

To submit an e-Request, please visit the USCIS e-Request home page and have your receipt number available. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ICE PSA Raises Awareness About Human Trafficking

On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the start of a national radio public service announcement (PSA) campaign to generate awareness about human trafficking.

The PSA will begin airing Nov. 14 on 24 English and 19 Spanish language radio stations in the following cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Saint Paul, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa and Washington.

ICE's Hidden In Plain Sight campaign is part of the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign and its goal is to alert the public about the existence of human trafficking in communities nationwide and prompt a call to action for individuals who encounter possible victims.

ICE has focused its efforts to educate the public about the plight of human trafficking victims. For this outreach effort the agency is turning to radio stations for assistance in generating awareness about human trafficking in the United States as well as for everyone to look for signs of this crime and report possible trafficking situations to safeguard victims.

If anyone knows or suspects someone is being held against their will, ICE strongly urges them to contact the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. Individuals can also view the television PSA online.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mexican National Sentenced for Illegal Re-entry

A Mexican national was sentenced Friday, November 2, 2012, to 26 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release for illegal re-entry into the United States, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers.

After Mario Estrella, 29, completes his prison sentence, he will be turned over to ERO for removal from the United States.

According to court documents, Estrella was convicted Nov. 17, 2004, of throwing a deadly missile at or into an occupied vehicle, a felony in Florida. He was deported to Mexico Dec. 17, 2009. Estrella re-entered the United States at an unknown place and date.

On May 13, the ERO Miami Interoperability Response Center filed an immigration detainer on Estrella with Florida's Orange County Jail. ERO officers interviewed and fingerprinted Estrella May 14. ERO Violent Criminal Alien Section officers arrested Estrella July 2 for illegally re-entering the United States without permission.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury July 25 and pleaded guilty Aug. 16.

ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Friday, November 16, 2012

ICE Fines 12 Connecticut Companies for Illegal Employees and Employment Violations

Following an investigation and audit of Form I-9 documents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), 12 Connecticut employers were fined a total of $132,584.25 in fiscal year (FY) 2012 for various employment violations.

The inspection of the employers' documents is part of HSI's worksite enforcement strategy that launched in 2009 to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. This strategy focuses agency resources on the investigation and audit of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by hiring workers who are not authorized to work.

Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire. This form requires employers to review and record the individual's identity and employment eligibility document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appears to be genuine and related to the individual. Additionally, an employer must ensure that the employee provides certain information regarding his or her eligibility to work, on the Form I-9.

Fines in Connecticut in FY 2012 include:

·                             Acranom Masonry Inc. of Middlefield was fined $4,500;
·                             Calabro Cheese Corp. of East Haven was fined $45,000;
·                             Contour Landscaping Company Inc. of Stamford was fined $8,104;
·                             Gourmet Heaven Inc. of New Haven was fined $5,891;
·                             John J. Masi Company Inc. of Bridgeport was fined $3,276;
·                             Kingswood Kitchens Company Inc. of Danbury was fined $12,000;
·                             Leed-Himmel Industries Inc. of Hamden was fined $2,241.25;
·                             Melissa & Doug LLC of Wilton was fined $1,386;
·                             Prostar Inc. of Farmington was fined $10,472;
·                             Quality Sales LLC of Hartford was fined $2,722;
·                             Superior Plastics Extrusion Company Inc., aka Impact Plastics, of Putnam was fined $34,000; and
·                             Villa Brava Grocery LLC of Hartford was fined $2,992.

"These settlements serve as a reminder to employers that HSI will continue to hold them accountable for hiring and maintaining a legal and compliant workforce," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. Foucart oversees HSI throughout New England. "We encourage employers to take the employment verification process seriously, as we expand the number of audits we are conducting throughout Connecticut each year. My agency will continue to focus its attention on employers that are knowingly employing illegal workers and will continue to target specific industries and businesses known or alleged to hire illegals."

During FY 2012, HSI conducted 18 inspections of employers' I-9 documents in Connecticut, an increase over the 14 inspections conducted in FY 2011, seven in FY 2010 and one in FY 2009. In FY 2011, HSI issued only one fine to a Connecticut company. PCC Technology Group of Bloomfield was fined $15,000.

HSI worksite investigations

Effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in the fight against illegal immigration. HSI has developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that promotes national security, protects critical infrastructure and targets employers who violate employment laws or engage in abuse or exploitation of workers.

An effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves. In worksite cases, HSI investigators adhere to high investigative standards, including the following:

·                             HSI will look for evidence of the mistreatment of workers, along with evidence of trafficking, smuggling, harboring, visa fraud, identification document fraud, money laundering and other such criminal conduct; and
·                             HSI will obtain indictments, criminal arrests or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. attorney's office to prosecute the targeted employer before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at a worksite.

HSI also works with the private sector to educate employers about their responsibilities to hire only authorized workers and how to accurately verify employment eligibility, through such tools as the IMAGE program.

IMAGE program

Undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits and stealing identities of legal United States workers. To combat this, ICE initiated the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program in 2006. As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including use of employment screening tools such as E-Verify. IMAGE certified employers also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Employers that are certified with ICE through the IMAGE program pledge to maintain a secure and stable workforce and curtail the employment of unauthorized workers through outreach and education. ICE recently revamped IMAGE, simplifying program requirements.


Through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify employment eligibility verification program, employers can verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This Internet-based system is available throughout the nation and is free to employers. It provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration records.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ICE Target Operation Arrests 31 Criminal Aliens

As part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators, 31 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested during a two-day operation in the greater Chicago area.

This operation concluded Sunday, November 4, 2012, and was conducted by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations teams in Chicago.

Of the 31 arrested, 26 had prior convictions for crimes such as: aggravated assault, weapons offenses, domestic battery, aggravated drunken driving, burglary and drugs. Thirteen of the 31 were immigration fugitives who had been previously ordered to leave the country but failed to depart; the majority of these also had criminal convictions. Six of those arrested had been previously removed from the country and illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony.

Following is the nationality breakdown of the 31 men arrested: Mexico (22), Nigeria (2), Germany (1), Guatemala (1), Honduras (1), Poland (1), Tajikistan (1), Thailand (1) and Venezuela (1). The arrests occurred in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, including Addison, Cicero, Bolingbrook and Waukegan.

Following are summaries of two individuals arrested during this operation:

·                             A 51-year-old Mexican national has prior criminal convictions for aggravated assault on a police officer, illegally re-entering the United States after being deported, and domestic battery. He was arrested Nov. 3 at his Naperville residence and remains in ICE custody pending removal to Mexico.
·                             A 64-year-old German national has prior criminal convictions for possessing a firearm silencer and theft. He is also an immigration fugitive with an outstanding deportation order. He was arrested Nov. 4 at his Chicago residence and remains in ICE custody pending removal to Germany.

"ERO officers will continue to work tirelessly to improve the public safety in the Chicago area by locating, apprehending and removing at-large criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators who have blatantly disregarded the immigration laws," said Ricardo Wong, field office director for ERO Chicago. "With targeted enforcement operations, we are focusing our resources on the most egregious offenders while improving public safety for law-abiding residents in our communities."

This enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives.

ICE 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. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Texas Attorney Arrested for Drug Trafficking Conspiracy and Money Laundering

A local attorney remains in federal custody following his arrest Friday, November 2, 2012, by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) regarding allegations of money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel.

Marco Antonio Delgado, 46, was arrested Nov. 2 at an El Paso restaurant. He is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

An El Paso-area attorney, Delgado is named in a federal indictment charging that between July 2007 through December 2008, in the Western District of Texas, he conspired with other individuals to launder money believed to be drug trafficking proceeds.

According to the investigation, Delgado is linked to a drug cartel based in Guadalajara, Mexico, and accused of conspiring to launder more than $600 million.

Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, said: "Drug cartels operate solely on the basis of greed. However, when they can also corrupt trusted authorities, the integrity and stability of both countries' financial infrastructure may be at risk."

Delgado had his initial appearance in federal court Nov. 5. His preliminary and detention hearing was set for Nov. 8. If convicted, Delgado faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

This HSI investigation was coordinated by HSI El Paso's financial group and the HSI-led Southwest Border Financial Operations and Currency United Strike Force (FOCUS).

FOCUS was created to detect and target a wide variety of financial crimes in west Texas and the state of New Mexico. This multi-agency financial strike force includes the following agencies: HSI, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. FOCUS works closely with the U.S. attorney's office, ICE's Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Each participating agency uses its unique law enforcement authorities to enhance the capabilities of the strike force. FOCUS investigates the following financial crimes: money laundering, mortgage and bank fraud, structuring, unlicensed money transmitting businesses/couriers, and bulk cash smuggling.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

M.C. Law Group Attorney Alex Meyerovich Explains Legal Fees

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- At M.C. Law Group, we know that hiring an attorney is a serious financial decision. However, in many immigration cases, hiring the cheapest attorney can cost you more money in the long run. At M.C. Law Group, we provide exceptional service for reasonable fees, and we include many services in your legal fees that other attorneys leave out.

Watch the video below to see Attorney Alex Meyerovich explain how M.C. Law Group fees are different from other immigration attorneys.

Learn more about M.C. Law Group

Monday, November 12, 2012

Honduran National Sentenced for Hostage-Taking and Alien-Harboring

A Honduran national was sentenced Monday, November 5, 2012, to 35 years in federal prison following multiple convictions in a hostage-taking and alien-harboring conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by the Houston Police Department (HPD), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Cesar Avila, 38, was sentenced Nov. 5 to 420 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $1,000 special assessment fee by U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal. Avila was convicted of hostage-taking conspiracy, four counts of hostage-taking, using a firearm during a crime of violence, and four counts of aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal aliens. Avila was convicted by a jury following a three day jury trial that concluded June 6.

Additional testimony was presented by one of two female victims who Avila sexually assaulted. She provided graphic testimony about how she was abused, and how that abuse has affected her. In handing down the sentence, Judge Rosenthal noted that Avila's statement that he had himself been a victim of smugglers was "chilling" in light of the evidence presented at trial. As an illegal alien, Avila is expected to face deportation proceedings after he completes his 35-year prison sentence.

Trial testimony showed that on Aug. 19, 2011, the Houston Emergency Center received a 911 call from a subject who spoke only Spanish. The victim advised he was being held against his will at a house in Houston by alien smugglers who had been hired to smuggle him to an unspecified location in the United States. He claimed Avila was armed with a handgun and had threatened them with death, and they were in fear of their lives.

HPD officers eventually located the residence on the 100 block of Jamaica Street in Houston. The location had no windows and the French doors on the north side of the residence had the glass panes covered with aluminum foil. Once inside the location, several people, who were later identified as hostages, began pointing to Avila as the hostage-taker and smuggler. Officers also discovered a semi-automatic handgun and a ledger detailing payments by the smuggling organization under the mattress where Avila was sitting.

Several of the aliens who were held hostage also identified Carlos Martinez-Aguilar, 44, an illegal alien from Mexico. They stated that Martinez-Aguilar came into the building where they were being held and drank beer with Avila in the hours prior to law enforcement arriving. They also stated that Martinez-Aguilar asked about the status of payments of smuggling fees. The victims indicated Martinez-Aguilar was not involved in abuse or threats, and he had provided them food and blankets. Officers discovered Martinez-Aguilar had been living in the larger house in front of the building where the aliens were housed.

One of the victims advised officers he had been in the Houston area for about eight days, and had been moved from house to house in the Houston area with five other aliens. He admitted he was in the country illegally and that he had paid smugglers $5,000 to smuggle him into the United States. He identified Avila as the subject who was holding him. He stated that Avila was constantly armed with the handgun, and had threatened to kill him if he tried to escape. Further testimony revealed that the smugglers were threatening to kill him if his family did not pay an additional $5,000.

The mother of one of the victims testified at trial that she and her family had been contacted by smugglers demanding more money and threatening her son's life, as well as the life of her family if the additional money was not paid. She was so frightened she contacted police who conducted surveillance to protect them. Her daughter also testified that the family raised money by borrowing it from friends, and they sent as much money as they could via wire transfer to smugglers in Mexico.

Avila will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Martinez-Aguilar was previously sentenced to 36 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to one count of harboring illegal aliens.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Searle and Douglas Davis, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Corporation Pleads Guilty to Knowingly Hiring Illegal Alien for McDonald's Manager

A Kansas corporation agreed to plead guilty Wednesday, October 31, 2012, to an immigration charge after a federal investigation showed that the manager of one of its McDonald's restaurants in Wichita was an illegal alien. This announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, District of Kansas.

This guilty plea agreement resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General.

McCalla Corporation, a McDonald's restaurant franchisee with offices in Wichita, was charged Oct. 31 with one felony count of knowingly accepting a fraudulent identification document offered as proof that an employee was eligible to work. As part of the plea agreement, the corporation agreed to pay a $300,000 fine, and an additional $100,000 forfeiture judgment.

The case is the second time in two months that a Kansas company has been charged with knowingly employing illegal workers. In the other case, the owners of two hotels in Overland Park, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., were charged with knowingly hiring illegal workers for housekeeping jobs.

"ICE is committed to holding businesses accountable when they knowingly hire or retain illegal workers," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "Employers who willfully violate our nation's hiring laws gain an unfair economic advantage over their law-abiding competitors. Our goal is to protect job opportunities for the nation's legal workers and level the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules."

"Businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers are putting us all at risk," said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom. "They are creating a marketplace for unauthorized workers who may resort to presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits and even stealing the identities of legal U.S. workers. Employment is the primary driving force behind illegal immigration. I'm calling on all Kansas employers to strengthen their hiring practices and to help us safeguard this nation by hiring and maintaining a lawful workforce."

According to an affidavit, the investigation began in February 2011 when HSI received information that McCalla Corporation employed illegal workers. McCalla Corporation owns McDonald's restaurants at the following six Wichita locations:

·                             1630 S. Hillside
·                             11989 E. Kellogg
·                             501 E. Pawnee
·                             1219 S. Rock Road
·                             2418 S. Seneca
·                             1645 S. Webb Road

In the plea agreement, McCalla Corporation admitted that in March 2011 the company's director of operations became aware that one of its store managers was using a false Social Security number. The director told the McDonald's store manager she needed to provide him new documents to confirm her eligibility to work.

Two days later, the store manager presented a resident alien identification card. The director knew the new card was not genuine. He knew that it takes weeks, not just two days, for a foreign national to obtain a resident alien card. Nevertheless, he updated her paperwork and McCalla Corporation took no further action concerning her employment. She worked as a store manager for this corporation from May 2009 to September 2012.

Grissom said he expects McCalla Corporation to enter the guilty plea within the next three weeks, as the court's schedule permits.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Owner of L.A. Employment Agency Charged with Filing Fraudulent Work Visa Applications

The owner of a Los Angeles employment agency was indicted Thursday, November 1, 2012, on immigration fraud charges for allegedly filing more than 100 bogus work visa petitions on behalf of aliens she falsely claimed had been recruited for positions with prominent hospitals and non-profit organizations.

Lilia Tabafunda, 57, the owner of People's Resources International Services in the Wilshire Center district of Los Angeles, was named in a 10-count indictment returned the afternoon of Thursday, November 1, 2012, by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges Tabafunda with nine counts of visa fraud and one count of perjury. Two of the charges involve alleged fraud and false statements related to Tabafunda's own naturalization application.

"Visa fraud crimes often involve the unwitting and the desperate," said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. "Tabafunda allegedly took this exploitation to new heights, falsely claiming associations with some of America's most trusted organizations, including internationally known cancer centers. Tabafunda exploited the goodwill of these groups for personal gain, shamelessly seeking to compromise the integrity of our naturalization system along the way."

The charges are the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General. The investigation began in 2007 after HSI received a lead from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security Unit that Tabafunda was filing suspicious H-1B non-immigrant visa petitions.

Tabafunda was arrested Oct. 15 by HSI after she attempted to board a Mexico-bound cruise ship, despite prior instructions from special agents not to leave the country. Tabafunda made her initial court appearance the following day and was released on $50,000 bond.

Court documents in the case allege that for nearly a decade Tabafunda used the names of shell companies and non-profit organizations in fraudulent employment-based, non-immigrant visa petitions submitted to USCIS and the U.S. Department of Labor. According to the indictment, Tabafunda falsely claimed that her clients were being sought for positions by prominent organizations, including City of Hope, Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Among the jobs listed on the fraudulent employment visa petitions were budget analysts, clinical research specialists and "health educators."

Employment-based visas are normally issued when a business in the United States needs someone to fill a specific job and is unable to find a qualified employee in the domestic labor pool. The business can file a petition to allow a particular alien, who is qualified to fill the job, to enter the United States to work for the business.

"It's disturbing that someone would exploit the names of respected hospitals and public service organizations as part of a scheme to defraud the government and the American people," said Claude Arnold, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Our message is simple – America's legal immigration system is not for sale and HSI will move aggressively against those who compromise the integrity of that system simply to enrich themselves."

According to court documents, Tabafunda charged her clients anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 to file visa petitions on their behalf. Most of Tabafunda's clients were Philippine nationals who originally entered the United States on tourist visas.

"Immigration fraud is a serious national problem and this indictment is an outstanding example of all levels of the government working together to fight fraud," said Rosemary Langley Melville, director, USCIS California Service Center. "USCIS officers encountered this scam while processing requests for immigration benefits and worked seamlessly with federal partners to identify and investigate this case. We will continue to identify those who threaten the integrity of our immigration system."

Tabafunda is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court. If she is convicted of all 10 counts in the indictment, Tabafunda would face a maximum statutory penalty of 95 years in federal prison.

Abel Salinas, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, stated: "Today's indictment reflects our commitment to investigate allegations of fraud involving the Department of Labor Foreign Labor Certification programs. The Office of Inspector General will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat these types of crimes."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fake Immigration Attorney Arrested for Fraud

A Tijuana man who allegedly posed as an immigration attorney has been arrested on state charges for defrauding at least two individuals as part of a scam to collect fees for phony immigration-related legal services while working at an office in San Ysidro.

Alberto Rodrigo Garcia, 50, of Tijuana, Mexico, was taken into custody Thursday, November 1, 2012, at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Garcia was expected to be arraigned in state court Monday, November 5, 2012, on felony charges of grand theft and practicing law without a license.

"Our office does not tolerate scammers who take advantage of innocent victims," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "Our Economic Crimes Unit does an outstanding job prosecuting these types of cases and bringing a measure of justice to those who were defrauded."

After receiving a tip, HSI began investigating Garcia in May. So far, the probe has identified two victims who paid more than $5,000 for what they believed were legitimate immigration services rendered by Garcia. Special agents suspect others may have fallen prey to the same scam.

"Protecting the integrity of the nation's immigration system is a top priority for HSI," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. "As part of our ongoing efforts to protect the community from immigration fraudsters, we are seeking the public's assistance to help identify other potential victims."

Anyone with information that may be related to this case is asked to call 619-550-5183.
According to a case affidavit, Garcia met with at least two victims on separate occasions and offered to file paperwork to legally immigrate one man's spouse and another man's fiancée.

As part of his illegitimate immigration-related services, Garcia advertised using business cards that identified his business as a professional attorney service. He also provided receipts with stamps that identified him as the owner of Alberto R. Garcia, Inc. Garcia is also a licensed tax preparer.

During ensuing meetings, the victims reported they gave Garcia personal documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, passport photos, and payments to file the required paperwork.

When one of the victims subsequently went to the San Ysidro office to ask about the status of his case, he was advised that Garcia no longer worked there, but had opened a new office near the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Chinese Nationals Arrested for Harboring and Unlawfully Employing Illegal Aliens

Three Chinese nationals from the Katy, Texas, area were taken into custody Thursday, October 25, 2012, following the return of an indictment alleging a conspiracy to harbor and induce illegal aliens to reside in the U.S, and unlawful employment.

These arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The indictment indicates Song Yu, 32, Hue Chen, 36, and Cheng Jie Chen, 40, hired illegal aliens from Guatemala to work at the Bamboo Village, aka New Bamboo Village restaurant. In addition, some of these aliens were allegedly directed to obtain fraudulent work authorization documents. They never presented identification documents and never completed I-9 forms, as required by law, according to the indictment. The indictment further alleges illegal aliens and other workers were provided housing, and were transported to and from the restaurant.

Bamboo Village restaurant is a Chinese restaurant located on the 5100 block of Avenue H, in Rosenberg, Texas. Cheng Jie Chen was its original director and president. On April 5, 2010, the restaurant changed the corporation name to New Bamboo Village Inc., at which time Yu, Cheng Jie Chen's nephew, was named as the director and president.

Federal law requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. Further, employers must verify employment eligibility using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9). The employer is required to examine, at the time of hire, the documentation provided by the individual that establishes his identity and employment eligibility to ensure the documents presented appear to be genuine and relate to the individual. The employer must retain the I-9 forms for three years after the date of the hire or one year after the date the individual's employment is terminated, whichever is later.

On March 24, 2009, HSI special agents encountered and arrested illegal aliens at a residence on the 4900 block of Timber Lane in Rosenberg. These individuals, who did not have the proper I-9 documentation, allegedly worked at Bamboo Village and resided at the Timber Lane location. According to the indictment, they were transported daily to work at the restaurant.

HSI issued a warning notice to the restaurant on or about July 1, 2010, advising then owner Chen Jie Chen of the penalties associated with knowingly hiring and employing illegal aliens, and the lack of the I-9 forms.

On Aug. 22, 2012, HSI personnel again encountered more illegal aliens who were arrested at the same Timber Lane residence. At the time, all were allegedly being housed by the defendants at this location while working at New Bamboo Village.

The three were expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson Oct. 26. If convicted of the conspiracy charge, they face up to 10 years in prison, as well as a maximum $250,000 fine. Unlawfully employing illegal aliens carries an additional six-month prison term, and a $3,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.