Airline Staffing Executive Pleads Guilty to Immigration Fraud
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Pilchak (619) 546-9709
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 10, 2017
SAN DIEGO – The former Vice President of Operations for two airline mechanic staffing companies, Eleno Quinteros, Jr., pleaded guilty today to charges of making false statements in support of legal permanent resident petitions for dozens of the companies’ mechanics.
Quinteros admitted that he falsely certified that he had received no payments from the mechanics, when in fact he had demanded and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars of unlawful fees from approximately 85 of them.
According to the plea agreement, Quinteros demanded and collected as much as $567,480 from employees, even though employers are prohibited by law from demanding payment for their fees—including attorneys’ fees—in connection with the charged applications. Some of the money Quinteros collected was paid to attorneys assisting with the applications. The rest of the money was pocketed by Quinteros himself.
Quinteros was vice president of two different staffing companies, as set out in his plea agreement. The companies’ staff performed heavy maintenance on aircraft at a variety of locations nationwide. Quinteros was responsible for recruiting Mexican airline mechanics to work in the United States for the companies, and for helping recruits to obtain work visas such as TN or H-2B visas.
According to the indictment, Quinteros first assisted recruits in obtaining work visas to come to the United States. Quinteros then agreed to help at least 85 of them pursue a legal permanent residency—in exchange for substantial (and unlawful) fees. Quinteros directed many employees to pay money to his wife’s bank account, or provide him with blank money orders, in order to conceal the source of the unlawful funds.
Quinteros pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false claim in support of an immigration application, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(a). He admitted in his plea, however, that the underlying scheme involved more than 25 immigration documents.
“Legal permanent residency is not for sale,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “This Office is dedicated to fighting immigration fraud and prosecuting those who hawk lawful immigration status for their own personal financial gain.”
“The Diplomatic Security Service is committed to protecting the integrity of H-2B visas and all U.S. visas and travel documents that assist U.S. companies to legally employ foreign workers,” said Michael Bishop, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Los Angeles Field Office. “This case is the result of the partnership among federal law enforcement agencies and DSS’ global network of special agents working together to interdict visa and passport crimes and stop criminals from reaping illegal income by exploiting U.S. visas, passports, and foreign workers.”
“Immigration benefit fraud is a serious crime, and those who corrupt the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system must understand there are serious consequences for those actions,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “Not only do schemes like this potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve, they also create a security vulnerability that could be exploited by criminals and others who pose a danger to our community. As the lead agency for the Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively target those who conspire to manipulate and exploit our nation's legal immigration system for their own personal financial gain.”
“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has zero tolerance for those who try to fraudulently misuse our country’s lawful immigration system,” said Susan Curda, USCIS District Director in Los Angeles. “We are proud of our role in uncovering this scheme and bringing the perpetrator to justice.”
Quinteros' sentencing is set for November 6, 2017 before Judge Michael M. Anello.
DEFENDANT Case No. 17-cr-557-MMA
“Max” Quinteros, Jr. Age: 45 Chula Vista, California
False Statement on an Immigration Document - 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a)
Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service
Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services