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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index
    Release No. 07-040

    March 14, 2007

    IRANIAN MEDIA PERSONALITY SENTENCED TO 2½ YEARS
    IN PRISON FOR RUNNING FAR-REACHING VISA FRAUD SCHEME

    A San Fernando Valley man known for his appearances on Farsi-language media outlets was sentenced today to 30 months in federal prison for orchestrating an immigration fraud scheme that filed fraudulent employment visa applications on behalf of scores of foreign nationals seeking to come to the United States.

    Henry Hossein Haghighi Heguman, 61, of West Hills, an “immigration consultant” who regularly appeared on Farsi-language TV and radio programs, was sentenced this morning in Los Angeles federal court by United States District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew. Haghighi’s sentencing follows his guilty pleas last fall to conspiracy, two counts of immigration fraud and two counts of money laundering.

    Haghighi is one of four defendants who were arrested in November 2004 in relation to the scheme that Haghighi admitted helped as many as 99 aliens obtain visas through fraud. Haghighi also admitted that his operation charged from $6,000 to $24,000, depending of the circumstances of the alien seeking a visa.

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

    Relying on more than 200 Southern California businesses – ranging from medical clinics to auto parts stores, some real and some not – to serve as petitioners, Haghighi and his associates filed paperwork that fraudulently claimed a business needed to hire a particular worker who needed a visa to enter the United States. In most cases, the aliens who immigrated to the United States as part of this scheme never went to work for the petitioning businesses.

    The investigation began when adjudication officers with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviewed employment visa petitions with questionable employer need and employee qualifications. The matter was referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which opened a criminal investigation.

    Previously in this case, three of Haghighi’s codefendants pleaded guilty.

    Farideh Mir, 59, of Sherman Oaks, an employee of a law firm that assisted Haghighi, pleaded guilty to four counts of immigration fraud. Mir is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lew on May 8.

    Grace Houra Shahraz Edison, 51, a Canoga Park businesswoman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. Edison is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lew on April 23.

    The fourth defendant, attorney Bita Logham Hoffman, 41, of Carlsbad, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of immigration fraud. Hoffman is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lew on April 11.

    "One of the lessons from 9/11 is that false identities and fake documents present serious risks to national security by leaving the door open for criminals and terrorists to illegally enter and remain in the United States," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. “ICE is determined to target not only the criminal organizations behind these schemes, but anyone else who profits from them.”

    Debra D. King, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division in Los Angeles, stated: "Immigration fraud poses a serious threat to the security of our country. IRS Special Agents, who are trained to follow the money, bring their financial expertise to bear in these types of investigations, working towards the successful prosecution of those who launder the proceeds of their illegal activity"

    The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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    Release No. 07-040
    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index