Immigration Attorney Pleads Guilty to Fraud Scheme and Identity Theft in Relation to Visa Applications
An Indianapolis, Indiana immigration attorney pleaded guilty today for defrauding the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and more than 250 of his clients by filing false visa applications and reaping approximately $750,000 in fraudulent fees.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Chicago made the announcement.
Indianapolis immigration attorney Joel Paul, 45, of Fishers, Indiana pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana to an information charging him with one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to submit fraudulent U-visa applications. Sentencing will be scheduled before Judge Magnus-Stinson in early 2018.
“Individuals who commit immigration fraud undermine and abuse our generous immigration system—a system that lawfully admits more immigrants than any other country in the world—and put our public safety and national security at risk,” said Attorney General Sessions. “President Trump promised voters he would return this country to a lawful system of immigration, and this Justice Department is committed to fulfilling that promise by rooting out fraud and abuse. We will not tolerate fraud at any level, and will bring those who engage in fraud to justice.”
According to the plea agreement, Paul admitted that from 2013 to 2017, he submitted more than 250 false Applications for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant on behalf of his clients and without their knowledge. Those applications falsely asserted that Paul’s clients had been victims of a crime and had provided substantial assistance to law enforcement in investigating the crime. With approximately 200 of the false applications, Paul submitted unauthorized copies of a certification he had obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of Indiana in 2013, using the certification without the USAO’s knowledge to falsely claim that the applicant had provided substantial assistance in a criminal prosecution. In total, Paul charged his clients approximately $3,000 per application.
HSI investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Molly Gaston, Peter M. Nothstein, and Amanda Vaughn of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of the scheme described above or who have information about this matter can contact the Department of Justice by phone at (202) 514-1412.