Alcala Pleads Guilty To Two Charges In Visa Fraud Case; Sentenced To 56 Months In Federal Prison
SALT LAKE CITY - James Hector Alcala, age 46, a Salt Lake City attorney, will serve 56 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and alien smuggling and one count of visa fraud. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson accepted the guilty plea and imposed the prison sentence at a hearing in U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon.
Alcala was indicted in July 2009 along with a Salt Lake City law firm, a property management company, and seven other individuals. The 17-count indictment alleged that the defendants intended to profit financially by assisting Utah employers in obtaining H-2B visas for their foreign national workers by fraudulently representing to federal agencies that the foreign nationals were eligible for visas when, in fact, they were not.
The H-2B visa program allows United States companies to hire foreign nationals to fill employee vacancies that the company, for one reason or another, cannot fill with U.S. citizens. The visa program is not intended for permanent work. It is designed to help U.S. businesses that have temporary, seasonal, peak load or intermittent needs. Several federal agencies are involved in what is a fairly complicated application process.
As a part of court records filed today, Alcala admitted that he conspired with co-defendants in the case to fraudulently obtain H-2B visas for foreign national workers that were already living and working in the United States, in violation of the law. He admitted that he counseled illegal alien workers seeking visas to make false statements to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security regarding whether or not the applicants had ever lived or worked in the United States.
Alcala also admitted that he made false representations to the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of his petitioning corporate clients that were seeking H-2B visas for their businesses. The false representations included inflating the number of visas needed by the businesses; whether or not these positions could not reasonably be filled with qualified applicants that were lawfully able to work in the United States; and false statements regarding the fact that some of these workers were already living and working in the United States for the same businesses that were petitioning for the visas.
“The laws that govern the issuance of visas exist to make the process fair for everyone. When false statements are used in an attempt to get a visa, other workers, including foreign nationals and U.S. workers and employers, who have played by the rules, get hurt,” Acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen said today.
“Alcala’s end run around immigration law, while profitable for a time, has ultimately landed him prison. His scheme unfortunately came at the cost of an untold number of legal job seekers during one of the worst economic downturns in history.” Jonathan Lines, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Utah, said. “Alcala provided an illegal solution for Utah businesses that relied on an illegal workforce.”
David Zebley, Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office of the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service, said, “This is a great success in Department of State Diplomatic Security Service’s combined efforts in combatting large scale fraud and human smuggling as well ensuring the integrity of our travel documents. This case is an especially serious abuse of the legal and immigration systems, as it involved a criminal network consisting of eight individuals to include an officer of the court, a former Border Patrol agent and a former consular employee at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Labor has thwarted a substantial attempt to compromise the safeguards on which the law-abiding rely.”
Two defendants in the case, Carlos Manuel Vorher and Andrew Lorenzo Acosta Parra, are awaiting sentencing. Federal prosecutors believe one defendant, Carlos Enrique Gomez-Alvarez, fled to Venezuela. Two other co-conspirators, Olga Adriana Garza Muniz and Florentino Jose Ayala Villarreal, are in Mexico and have not been located. Prosecutors earlier dismissed charges against Daniel Trigo Villavicencio and Gustavo Ballesteros-Munoz.
Janet Alcala, president, agent, and legal representative of Westside Property Management, pled guilty to visa fraud. As a part of resolution of the charges against the property management company, Janet Alcala and Westside Property Management agreed to forfeit interest in property that was traceable to, derived from, or a substitute for property that that was purchased with the proceeds of the crime. Real property, structures, homes, or buildings at nine addresses in Salt Lake City were included in the forfeited property totaling about $1 million.
The case was investigated by special agents of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Labor. It has been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City.