New York City Lawyer Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To Five Years In Prison For Operating Massive Immigration Fraud Scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that EARL SETH DAVID was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison for running an immigration fraud mill through his Manhattan-based law practice. As part of the scheme, DAVID and his co-conspirators applied for legal status for tens of thousands of illegal aliens based on phony claims that they had been sponsored for employment by U.S. employers. DAVID was indicted in October 2011, and extradited to the United States from Canada in January 2012. He pled guilty in April 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. DAVID was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Earl David abused his attorney’s license to exploit his alien clients who were seeking the American dream and to perpetrate a fraud on the federal government. He is now the 12th defendant in this sprawling scheme to be punished.”
According to the Superseding Indictment and statements made during court proceedings:
U.S. law permits an alien to petition for legal status if the alien has obtained a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) certifying that a U.S. employer wishes to employ, or “sponsor,” the alien. An alien who obtains the DOL certification can then use it to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain legal status in the United States.
From 1996 until early 2009, DAVID operated a Manhattan-based immigration law firm (the “David Firm”) that took in millions of dollars in fees from its alien-clients for purportedly securing them legal immigration status. In return for fees of up to $30,000 per alien-client, the David Firm applied for and obtained thousands of DOL certifications based upon phony employment sponsorships and fabricated documents, including fake pay stubs, fake tax returns, and fake “experience letters,” purporting to show that the sponsorships were real and that the aliens possessed special employment skill sets justifying labor-based certification by DOL. In reality, the sponsors had no intention of hiring the aliens, and the sponsor companies often did not even exist other than as shell companies for use in the fraudulent scheme. As a result of the fraud, DOL issued thousands of certifications, and immigration authorities granted legal status to thousands of the David Firm’s clients, when such adjustments were unwarranted and otherwise would not have been made. The Government has identified at least 25,000 immigration applications submitted by the David Firm – the vast majority of which have been determined to contain false, fraudulent, and fictitious information.
In furtherance of the scheme, DAVID and his employees recruited many people to participate, including dozens of individuals who, in exchange for payment, agreed to falsely represent to DOL that they were sponsoring aliens for employment; corrupt accountants who created fake tax returns for the fictitious sponsor companies; and a corrupt DOL employee who helped ensure that DOL certifications were granted based upon the fraudulent applications.
DAVID continued to operate the scheme even after he was suspended from the practice of law in New York State in March 2004. He fled to Canada in 2006 after learning that his firm was under federal criminal investigation. However, illicit profits from the scheme continued to be funneled to him in Canada, including through a bank account in the name of a biblical treatise he had authored entitled “Code of the Heart.” The David Firm ceased operations in early 2009, when federal search warrants were executed at several locations associated with the firm.
To date, a total of 26 individuals have been charged with participating in the scheme. Twenty-four defendants have been convicted, and two – Ali Gomaa and Sariel Sabale – remain fugitives. The charges against Ali Gomaa and Sariel Sabale are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. DAVID is the twelfth defendant to be sentenced.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Buchwald sentenced DAVID, 49, of New York, New York, to two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to forfeit $2.5 million, and to pay a $200 special assessment.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations for their outstanding work in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Janis Echenberg and James Pastore are in charge of the prosecution.