Iranian Television Personality Sentenced to Federal Prison for Paying $39,000 in Cash Bribes to Corrupt Immigration Officers
LOS ANGELES – A personality on a Persian-language television network who formerly acted as an “immigration consultant” was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for paying cash bribes to corrupt U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers in exchange for the immigration officers approving applications for citizenship.
Vida Heravi, 59, of Beverly Hills, who co-hosts a talk show host on the Tapesh TV Network, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.
Heravi pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to bribe public officials employed by USCIS. When she pleaded guilty, Heravi specifically admitted paying at least $39,000 in cash bribes to corrupt USCIS officers.
During the course of the scheme, corrupt immigration officers approved the applications of ineligible aliens to become naturalized citizens, typically receiving $1,000 per alien. Heravi paid at least $39,000 on behalf of 43 ineligible aliens.
Heravi also admitted in court that she submitted to USCIS at least 20 fraudulent medical waivers that falsely indicated a doctor had diagnosed the aliens as suffering from conditions that exempted them from the English-reading and language requirements in the naturalization process. Heravi used the fraudulent medical waivers to assist the corrupt USCIS officers in evading detection and to mislead other officers.
The USCIS officers accepted cash in exchange for falsely certifying that immigrants had met requirements for citizenship such as “passing” the English competency and civics portions of the naturalization interview and examination administered by USCIS. The corrupt immigration service also accepted the fraudulent medical waivers without questioning the interviewing aliens’ medical disability.
Another woman charged in the bribery conspiracy along with Heravi in a grand jury indictment – Mohdeh Erfani, 50, of Irvine – has pleaded guilty and is pending sentencing.
Previously in this investigation, former USCIS officer Daniel Espejo Amos was sentenced to three years in federal prison for taking bribes from Heravi and other immigration consultants.
The prosecution of Heravi and the others is the result of a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elisa Fernandez of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.