News and Press Releases

Six Defendants Charged in Three Separate Immigration Schemes Involving Abuse of Undocumented Aliens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2014

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and Linda M. Swacina, District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announce the filing of federal charges against six defendants in three separate cases. The cases announced today involve immigration scams that highlight fraud and abuse facing undocumented aliens living in South Florida.

“The immigration schemes alleged in these cases targeted the perceived, but oftentimes real, vulnerabilities of immigrants,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer. “Immigrants need to be aware that there are notarios and employers who prey on these vulnerabilities by making promises they do not keep and threats aimed to exploit. These schemes are intolerable. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed and stands united with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to combat such fraud.”

“I urge individuals who wish to obtain legal citizenship or status to beware of notario fraudsters. These individuals will prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities, and in the end, no one wins,” said Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami. “HSI will continue to investigate document and benefit fraud that threatens our legal immigration system.”

“USCIS has zero tolerance for immigration fraud,” said Linda Swacina, Director for the USCIS Miami District. “Our employees are committed to detecting and cooperating with other agencies to combat fraud and will continue to equip applicants and legal service providers with the tools they need to detect and protect themselves from fraud. Anyone considering immigration fraud should understand our commitment to ensuring the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”

The cases announced today include:

1. United States v. Iris Mira Probkevitz, et al., Case No. 14-20036-Cr-Martinez

Defendants Iris Mira Probkevitz, 57, of Aventura, and Jose Antonio Polledo Alfonso, 50, of Miami Beach, were charged in a ten-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of knowingly presenting an immigration application containing false information, and one count of knowing concealment of a material fact in a Green Card application.

According to allegations in the indictment, Probkevitz and Polledo Alfonso submitted immigration applications for undocumented aliens seeking immigration benefits in the United States but then defrauded them for additional sums of money beyond the original, negotiated payment amount once the application was filed. During the course of this scheme, the defendants falsely claimed to be employees of federal agencies, including at times the USCIS and at times the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The defendants also falsely claimed that Probkevitz was an immigration lawyer. Additionally, the defendants submitted applications with fraudulent information to USCIS purportedly on behalf of the undocumented aliens, directed mail from USCIS that was intended for the aliens to be delivered to the houses of the defendants, controlled the mail, and then charged the undocumented aliens money for the mail. On occasion, when undocumented aliens refused to pay the defendants’ escalating demands for money, the defendants sent a letter to USCIS falsely purporting to be from an alien or the alien’s spouse seeking a withdrawal of the immigration application.

In some instances, the defendants’ scheme involved threats. In one instance, an undocumented alien with initials “R.H.H.” and her spouse complained to the defendants about the defendants’ demands for additional sums of money and the defendants’ control of their mail from USCIS. In response, Polledo Alfonso told R.H.H. that he would put cement on her feet and throw her into the water if she complained to authorities about the defendants. In another instance, Probkevitz threatened to deport an undocumented alien with initials “A.W.” if she did not pay an additional sum of money. Moreover, after an alien with initials “M.S.” refused to pay additional sums, Polledo Alfonso showed M.S. what appeared to be a U.S. Customs credential and told M.S. that it was his job to arrest aliens like M.S.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Emery.

2. United States v. Maria Ester Monzon, et al., Case. No. 14-60010-Cr-Cohn

Defendants Maria Esther Monzon Roque, 55 of Lauderhill, Maria Cristina Ramirez De La Piscina Pena, 56, of Lauderhill, and Julian Roman Ramirez De La Piscina Pena, 57, of Lauderhill, were charged in a two-count indictment with conspiring to harbor illegal aliens, and one count of harboring an illegal alien with initials “M.D.”

The indictment alleges that the defendants worked together to own and operate the Inverarry Resort Hotel Condominium, and hired illegal aliens without asking them for employment authorization cards or other forms of required documentation. Additionally, the defendants had illegal alien employees sign forms claiming they were independent contractors and paid them in cash.

In November 2007, M.D. suffered a work-related injury. When M.D. returned to Inverarry after her hospitalization, the defendants threatened to turn M.D. and M.D.’s family over to immigration officials if M.D. caused any problems for the hotel or asked the defendants to pay her medical bills. They further told M.D. to leave and refused to pay her overdue wages.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Galvin.

3. United States v. Cecilia Alejandra Rodriguez Rivas, Case No. 14-2082-mj-McAliley

Defendant Cecilia Alejandra Rodriguez Rivas, 32, of Miami, was charged in a criminal complaint with making and using false documents in matters within the jurisdiction of the Department Homeland Security.

According to the criminal complaint, Rodriguez Rivas is a notary public who owns and operates an immigration services business called Rodriguez Universal Services LLC. Rodriguez falsely stated that she was an attorney and submitted altered income tax returns and forged documents to USCIS.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Cole.

If anyone has information about this fraud or has been a victim of the fraud, please call the toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and USCIS.

An indictment or complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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