SAN FERNANDO VALLEY MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN VISA FRAUD SCHEME
LOS ANGELES – A West Hills man has pled guilty to visa fraud for filing bogus paperwork on behalf of businesses seeking temporary work visas, as well as fraudulently charging prospective immigrants in Mexico thousands of dollars for visas.
Carlos Alberto Silva, 29, of West Hills, was arrested last month at his business in Canoga Park by special agents with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A criminal complaint filed June 7, 2011 in United States District Court charged Silva with visa fraud. The complaint alleged that Silva, who operated Silva and Associates in Canoga Park, submitted fraudulent employment-based immigration petitions on behalf of legitimate business to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the United States Department of Labor to obtain work visas for alien workers. As part of the scheme, Silva also was involved with Mexican recruitment agencies that charged aliens approximately 50,000 pesos – $3,000 to $4,000 – to seek visas that would allow them to enter the United States.
On July 11, 2011, Silva pled guilty to visa fraud pursuant to a written plea agreement.
"This conviction further demonstrates the Justice Department's commitment to prosecuting the notarios and scam artists who seek to victimize the most vulnerable among us - the hard-working men and women in our immigrant communities," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr.
In the plea agreement, Silva admitted to falsely holding himself out as an attorney and offering legal services to businesses that needed help hiring unskilled temporary alien workers. Silva also admitted to filing on behalf of his clients fraudulent petitions that falsely claimed that the businesses needed more employees – and more work visas – than the businesses actually had requested from Silva. Filing petitions with inflated numbers is known as “benching.”
While he was operating Silva and Associates, Silva was also involved in several Mexico-based recruitment agencies with names such as “InterAmerica,” “American Jobs” and “American Employment Agency Mexico SC.” These businesses charged approximately 50,000 pesos – $3,000 to $4,000 – to seek visas on behalf of Mexicans. Federal regulations prohibit the approval of work-based immigration visa petitions if the alien pays a job-placement or other recruiting fee. Silva admitted that he knowingly and intentionally failed to disclose the payments by these aliens in the petitions filed with USCIS.
Silva continues to be held on a $40,000 bond. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 7, 2011. Visa fraud is a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The case against Silva was investigated by the United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force.
Release No. 11-099
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