Three Florida Residents Charged for Receiving Bribes from Aliens in Exchange for Immigration Benefits
Elisa Pelaez, 54, Ginou Baptiste, 48, and Fritz Cyriaque (a/k/a “Joseph,” a/k/a “Ferguson”), 50, all of Miami, were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to solicit, demand and accept money or anything of value in excess of $5,000, from aliens, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions, of Behavioral Intervention, Inc. a/k/a BI, Inc. (BI, Inc.), a Geo Group Company, an organization that received in any one year period, benefits in excess of $10,000, under a federal program involving a contract.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jay Donly, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), and Michael T. Moreland, Special Agent in Charge, U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility (ICE-OPR), made the announcement.
According to court documents, DHS and ICE conducted an undercover operation into an immigration fraud ring suspected of soliciting aliens participating in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. The Intensive Supervision Appearance Program was administered by BI, Inc., a private company contracted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. BI, Inc. relied on electronic GPS monitoring devices, telephonic reporting, office interviews, unannounced home visits, employment verification, case management services, and documenting aliens’ attendance at court hearings to perform its contractual obligations to monitor individuals in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program.
Elisa Pelaez was an employee and agent of BI, Inc. She managed staff, conducted community outreach, and supervised aliens awaiting immigration proceedings. Ginou Baptiste was an employee and agent of BI, Inc. She supervised aliens awaiting immigration proceedings. Fritz Cyriaque was an associate of defendants Pelaez and Baptiste.
From on or about November 2010 through February 2014, defendants Pelaez and Baptiste used their positions of authority as employees and agents of BI, Inc. to unlawfully demand and receive monies from participants in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program in exchange for removal of their electronic monitoring devices. Baptiste would identify participants who desired to have their electronic monitor removed prematurely and had the ability to pay for its removal. Pelaez and Baptiste referred participants seeking to have their electronic monitors removed to Cyriaque. Batiste told participants in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program that Cyriaque was an ICE official who could assist them in resolving their immigration issues. Cyriaque posed as a United States ICE official and collected monies from participants in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program in exchange for removal of their electronic monitoring device. After Cyriaque obtained payments from the participants, Pelaez and Baptiste would direct other BI, Inc. employees to remove the participants’ monitors. Additionally, Pelaez, Baptiste and Cyriaque used intimidation and other means to further the conspiracy and to dissuade participants from reporting their illegal conduct to law enforcement.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of DHS-OIG and ICE-OPR. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis Viamontes.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.