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A psychologist and medical doctor were charged in a criminal complaint for their alleged role in a scheme to create fake medical diagnoses to help immigrants fraudulently obtain their U.S. citizenship, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Joining in the announcement were Acting Special Agent in Charge David G. Nanz, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Associate Director of Field Operations Directorate Daniel Renaud, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Director of Field Operations Christopher Perry, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Charged were psychologist Firoza VanHorn, 70, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and medical doctor Muhammad Awaisi, 61, of Pontiac, Michigan.
Schneider stated, “The allegations in this case are truly outrageous and are a disservice to every immigrant who comes to America and becomes a citizen the right and honest way.”
"As Americans we look for those individuals seeking to become our fellow citizens to respect and follow the laws of our country. We expect them to accept and respect our system of government and our naturalization process. And we expect everyone involved in the naturalization process to demonstrate the same good moral character required of immigrants applying to be U.S. citizens," said Nanz. "The conduct alleged in this complaint, if proven, demonstrates those involved showed contempt for the naturalization process and our laws."
Renaud stated, “The collaborative efforts of multiple departments and agencies on this investigation sends a clear message of our joint dedication to track down and hold accountable any who would seek to abuse our immigration system. In this situation, allegations of medical professionals dishonoring their positions of power to undermine our immigration system are especially despicable and are a slap in the face to those immigrants seeking relief through the disability exception process who truly need it.”
Perry stated, “Medical professionals are in a position of trust, profiting off of fake medical diagnoses to help others fraudulently obtain citizenship is a betrayal of that trust. U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes these allegations seriously and will aggressively pursue those bad actors who attempt to financially benefit off of such fraudulent activities.”
According to the complaint, immigrants seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens must first successfully demonstrate the ability to read, write and use the English language, and demonstrate a knowledge of United States history and government. These requirements, however, can be waived for immigrants who can prove that they are not able to meet the requirements because of physical or mental disabilities. The complaint alleges that Van Horn and Awaisi helped immigrants fraudulently obtain these waivers, and hence fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship, by diagnosing the immigrants with medical conditions they did not have, documenting tests that were never performed on the immigrants, and prescribing medically unnecessary medication. Van Horn typically received $500 each time she created the fake diagnosis and medical records. According to records from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Van Horn assisted 1,249 immigrants file requests for such waivers over the past four years alone.
For example, the complaint alleges that a witness met with Van Horn at Van Horn’s office. Van Horn asked how the witness was feeling, along with other basic questions a doctor typically asks a patient. The witness explained that the witness had previously been in a car accident. The complaint alleges that Van Horn then wrote a report diagnosing the witness with Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the witness being in a car accident, being held captive and assaulted by Sunni terrorists, being bombed, being jailed for a year by Saddam Hussein, being shot at a bus stop with friends, and the witness being the lone survivor.
The complaint further alleges that, as part of this conspiracy, Awaisi prescribed opioid painkillers to a patient, even though the patient was not in pain and did not tell Awaisi the patient was in pain.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Goulding. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the FBI, USCIS and CBP.