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August 18, 2009

ATTORNEY CONVICTED AND SENTENCED FOR VISA FRAUD CONSPIRACY AND MONEY LAUNDERING

(HOUSTON) – Local immigration attorney Kenneth L. Rothey, 70, of Houston, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 14 months imprisonment for conspiracy to engage in visa fraud, encouraging Chinese aliens to unlawfully enter the United States and money laundering, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Rothey was a fugitive in China from 2005 until July 2008 when efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proved successful in returning him to the United States.

The investigation leading to the indictment and subsequent extradition of Rothey produced evidence proving Rothey and others involved in his scheme used eight U.S. businesses to act as petitioners on behalf of 10 Chinese clients willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for obtaining permanent residence status through employment-based visas. Rothey and others created an illusory relationship between Chinese companies and U.S. companies by having representatives from the U.S. companies enter into contracts of sale with the Chinese companies in exchange for an initial fee. Once each of the eight U.S. companies was shown on paper as a subsidiary of a Chinese company, Rothey and members of his firm prepared and present fraudulent petitions and supporting documents on behalf of their clients with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

At a hearing today before United States District Judge Keith Ellison, Rothey admitted that on Nov. 10, 2000, he, Ricardo Aguirre, and Horacio Golfarini  met with the owners of a U.S. company at Rothey’s office to execute a contract for the owners to sell 55% or a controlling interest of their company  to a Chinese company for $1.2 million. The company received $20,000 but received no further payment. The owners of the company never signed any immigration documents. However on Aug. 29, 2001, the defendants caused a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to be filed with the INS on behalf of the company seeking to obtain an intracompany transferee classification for a Chinese national. On Oct. 26, 2001, the defendants filed with the INS an Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker for a second Chinese national to obtain resident alien status for the Chinese national in the United States as a multinational executive or manager for the company. In support of this fraudulent representation, Rothey made out a check for $30,000 to Golfarini. The memo line of the check said the check was for “Deposit to [the company] stock for Yangking.” The money utilized in these transactions was proceeds received in connection with a specified unlawful activity, namely, visa fraud.

Golfarini, of Houston, who was charged along with Rothey, pleaded guilty June 2005. He admitted his participation in the money laundering scheme between January 1999 and December 2002. Golfarini owned and operated Capitol Services Group, a brokerage firm used to conceal money earned from the Chinese clients willing to pay as much as $100,000 a piece for immigrant visas and work authorization. Golfarini also used Capitol Services Group to promote the visa fraud scheme by paying recruiters who located Houston-based businesses willing to enter into contracts of sale with Chinese-based businesses and to pay representatives of the Houston-based businesses down payments between $20,000 and $30,000 toward the purported sale. Golfarini was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine in June 2007.

A third defendant charged along with Rothey and Golfarini, Norman Chapa, also of Houston, pleaded guilty in June 2005 to conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to encourage unlawful immigration. He admitted he and the others created two shell companies in the United States which also had an illusory relationship with a Chinese company so that Chinese nationals could obtain immigration benefits. Paperwork filed by the Rothey law firm with the government falsely represented that various Chinese clients were seeking positions with the U.S. companies as multi-national executives or managers. In June 2007 he was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and fined $3,000.

A fourth defendant, Ricardo Aguirre, of Houston, was charged separately with immigration conspiracy to encourage unlawful immigration and to commit visa fraud for his involvement in the scheme. Aguirre was sentenced to five years probation and a $5,000 fine in February 2007. Aguirre worked for Rothey and admitted he paid U.S. business owners approximately $20,000 each for creating fraudulent subsidiary relationships with Chinese companies in order to sponsor employment-based visas for Chinese clients. The payments were made as a down payment by a Chinese company to purchase a controlling interest in the U.S. company but deals were never consummated. Aguirre was paid a commission by Rothey and Golfarini for each U.S. company successfully recruited into the scheme.  

The investigation was initiated in May 2001 after ICE received complaints about Rothey. Authorities subsequently executed a search warrant at Rothey’s law office and Golfarini’s business in July 2004. This case was investigated by ICE and Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Davis and Gregg Costa.

 

 

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