News and Press Releases

SOUTH FLORIDA MAN WHO POSED AS IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL INDICTED IN IMMIGRATION BENEFIT FRAUD SCHEME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2010

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Investigations, Miami Field Office, announced the arrest and indictment of defendant Parasharm Maharaj, aka Paris Maharaj, 66, of Sunrise, Florida, for his alleged involvement in an immigration benefit fraud scheme where he is alleged to have impersonated a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee in an attempt to obtain money from illegal immigrants by falsely promising them immigration benefits to remain in the United States.

On March 9, 2010, Maharaj was indicted in six-count indictment, charging him with mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, presenting false immigration applications, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(a), encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the United States, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a), and impersonation of a federal employee, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 912. ICE special agents arrested the defendant on these charges on March 15, 2010. He made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday, March 16, 2010.

In August 2005, ICE special agents in Fort Lauderdale began an investigation based on allegations that Parasharm Maharaj was purporting to be a U.S. immigration official and involved in immigration benefit fraud. Maharaj was allegedly defrauding illegal immigrants residing in South Florida by obtaining money from them with promises to obtain green cards and work permits.

According to the indictment, from August 2004 through September 2005, the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud in which he charged illegal immigrants approximately $4,000 each to file applications for immigration benefits on their behalf. Parasharm Maharaj submitted fraudulent employment authorization (Form I-765) and fraudulent applications for temporary permanent residence (Form I-687) on behalf of aliens, allegedly knowing the aliens were not entitled to receive the benefits sought. As well, during the execution of his scheme to defraud, Maharaj falsely purported to be an employee of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The indictment alleges that Parasharm Maharaj received more than $60,000 from the illegal immigrants he defrauded.

If convicted, defendant Maharaj faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each mail fraud charge, 10 years on each charge of presenting a false immigration application, 10 years on each charge of encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the United States, and 3 years on the charge of impersonating a federal employee.

States Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman said, “Immigration fraud not only hurts the victims who were defrauded of their hard-earned money, but also poses serious risks to our national security. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to preserving the integrity of our immigration system and helping to make our borders safe.”

“The filing of false applications to obtain immigration benefits for individuals that are not authorized to be present in the United States puts the security of our communities at risk,” said Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami. “Immigration benefits like these could be exploited by dangerous criminals to obscure their identities and cover their tracks. ICE will continue to aggressively pursue and criminally charge individuals who have impersonated federal officers and would exploit immigrant communities for their own self interests.”

Anyone with information that someone may be falsely representing to be an immigration officer or other DHS employee, can report that information or suspicion to the ICE tipline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423).

Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Fort Lauderdale. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Keene.

An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless 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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