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Press Release

Lawyer Who Conspired To Obtain Immigration Visas For Clients Based On Fraudulent Diplomas Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD KASSEL, an immigration lawyer who conspired to obtain immigration visas for his clients based on fraudulent advanced-degree diplomas and transcripts, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 27 months in prison, a $6,000 fine, 2 years supervised release, and $187,000 in forfeiture.  The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.  KASSEL pled guilty to conspiring to commit immigration fraud on April 15, 2015.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As a lawyer, Richard Kassel had a duty to know and uphold the law.  Instead, he violated the law and advised his clients do the same.  Kassel helped his clients fraudulently obtain immigration visas through fake diplomas and advanced degrees, including from schools they did not even attend.”

According to the allegations in documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at today’s sentencing and other court proceedings:

Federal immigration law provides that alien workers who are professionals holding advanced degrees may apply for employment-based immigration visas.  Applicants must submit advanced-degree diplomas and other related documents to U.S. immigration authorities in support of their applications for such visas.

From at least January 2008 until his arrest in August 2014, KASSEL, a lawyer and graduate of the City University of New York (“CUNY”) Law School, orchestrated a scheme to submit to U.S. immigration authorities false advanced-degree diplomas and supporting documents on behalf of his clients.  KASSEL, who practiced at his own law firm, instructed certain of his clients to obtain fraudulent diplomas and transcripts representing that they obtained degrees that they had not in fact earned from schools that they had not in fact attended.  KASSEL directed his clients to a co-conspirator who provided the fraudulent diplomas and supporting documents, which were created by another co-conspirator on a home computer and printer.  KASSEL and an assistant at his law firm helped coordinate the manufacturing of the fraudulent documents.  KASSEL then prepared and submitted fraudulent visa applications to U.S. immigration authorities on behalf of his clients based on the false documents.

KASSEL’s law firm typically charged, and in many cases received, thousands of dollars from clients in exchange for these fraudulent services.  These fees were on top of money paid by KASSEL’s clients directly to KASSEL’s co-conspirators for the creation of the fraudulent documents.                     

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KASSEL, 51, of New York, New York, was arrested in August 2014.  In addition to the prison term, KASSEL was sentenced to 2 years of supervised release, a $6,000 fine, and the forfeiture of $187,000, which represents the proceeds of the fraudulent scheme.

Vaclav Haloda, who created false documents, pled guilty to conspiring to commit immigration fraud and substantive immigration fraud in May 2015 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox and is awaiting sentencing.

Rosanna Almonte, KASSEL’s office assistant who helped coordinate the creation of false documents, pled guilty to conspiring to commit immigration fraud in May 2015 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox and is awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Griswold and Drew Johnson-Skinner are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated July 16, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-183