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Press Release

California Woman Sentenced for Fraud Scheme Against Immigrants

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – A California woman was sentenced today to two years in prison for running a scheme to defraud Iranian nationals out of over $120,000 in exchange for guaranteed United States immigration benefits.

According to court documents, Helen Kennedy, 61, of Santa Ana, a naturalized United States citizen of Iranian descent, advertised her immigration business in Iranian publications, Iranian television, and in online advertisements. Kennedy’s ads were all placed in Farsi, the language of Iran, and she used her Iranian maiden name to advertise her business. Promising citizenship, green cards, and work authorization, Kennedy enticed Iranian nationals to become her clients in exchange for thousands of dollars in fees.

Court documents indicate that Kennedy also falsely indicated she was an immigration attorney. Kennedy was neither an attorney, nor did she have authorization to file any application on behalf of another person with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). In fact, Kennedy never even attempted to file a single application with the USCIS for any of her clients. Instead, Kennedy strung her clients along promising them the benefits would soon be coming, all while continuing to collect fees from them. 

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Kosky prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:19-cr-158.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Public Affairs

Updated July 1, 2020

Financial Fraud