Mercer County Couple Indicted for Conspiring to Submit Fraudulent Asylum Applications
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. – A Mercer County couple was indicted for conspiring to prepare and submit fraudulent asylum applications, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Zuwairul Ameer, aka “Zuwairul Thowfeek,” 61, and Claudette Ameer, aka “Claudette Pieries,” 63, both of Lawrence Township, New Jersey, were both indicted on Aug. 29, 2023, on one count of conspiring to commit immigration fraud and one count of committing immigration fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Applicants for asylum in the United States must show that they have suffered persecution in their country of origin on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, or have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return to that country. The process requires an application that is reviewed by an asylum officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who makes an initial determination whether to grant asylum. If the application has been prepared by someone other than the applicant, the preparer must disclose his or her name and address and must sign the application.
Since at least 2007, Zuwairul Ameer has been in the business of preparing fraudulent asylum application on behalf of his non-citizen clients. Claudette Ameer has managed that business, acting as the primary point of contact for clients, arranging meetings, and mailing completed applications to USCIS. With Claudette Ameer’s assistance, Zuwairul Ameer met with clients, listened to their stories of mistreatment in their countries of origin, and drafted applications on their behalf that were fraudulent because they exaggerated the stories of mistreatment, falsely omitted Zuwairul Ameer’s name as the preparer, or both.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI - New York Field Office, under the direction of Assistant Director in Charge James Smith and immigration officers with of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at the New York Asylum Office, under the direction of Director Patricia Menges, with the investigation.
The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Webman of the Criminal Division in Newark.
Updated August 30, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-248