Local Immigration Lawyer Arrested On Federal Charges
DALLAS — A Dallas attorney was arrested this morning on felony charges, outlined in a federal indictment returned by a grand jury earlier this week and unsealed today, stemming from her work in representing aliens, that is, non-U.S. citizens, before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS), announced John Parker, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Sherin Thawer, 45, was arrested by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at her residence in Coppell, Texas. She made her initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stickney, who released her on conditions.
The seven-count indictment charges Thawer with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with immigration documents; one count of mail fraud; one count of transfer or use of the means of identification of another person; and four counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Thawer represented aliens before USCIS when they were applying for various types of visas to enter or remain in the U.S., including through obtaining U Nonimmigrant Status, also known as a U-Visa. To be eligible for a U-Visa, the alien must have been a victim of a certain crime, suffered mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime, and helped law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. In addition to the U-Visa application, applicants are to submit a Law Enforcement Certification form completed and signed by the certifying official for the law enforcement agency that investigated and/or prosecuted the crime for which the alien was a victim.
The indictment alleges that beginning in approximately March 2012 and continuing until September 2014, Thawer submitted fraudulently completed and forged Law Enforcement Certification forms to USCIS to obtain U-Visas for the aliens she represented. These Law Enforcement Certification forms, containing the names and badge numbers of police officers, were completed without the knowledge or authorization of the police officers, and the signatures purporting to be those of the named officers were forged.
A federal indictment is an accusation by a grand jury. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. If convicted, however, the statutory maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is ten years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The statutory maximum for the transfer or use of the means of identification of another person charge is fifteen years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, per count. The statutory maximum penalty for the mail fraud count is 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Each of the aggravated identity theft counts carries a statutory penalty of a mandatory two years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
ICE HSI, the Irving Police Department, and USCIS are investigating. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Gividen and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Wiley are prosecuting.