Lilia Tabafunda, 57, the owner of People's Resources International Services in the
"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
Employment-based visas are normally issued when a business in the
"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 –
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
"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,
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."