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California woman charged with immigration fraud

A California woman has been indicted on five counts of wire fraud for allegedly promising to help immigrants become permanent residents or American citizens and then pocketing their money. U.S. attorneys say she did not file any paperwork on behalf of her clients with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was not licensed to practice law in any state and had no business license. The woman was released from custody after posting an undisclosed bond.

Federal prosecutors say the woman used online advertising to attract clients. Many of her alleged victims were Iranian nationals according to media reports. She is said to have told her clients that she could guarantee them green cards, work visas and even U.S. citizenship. When her clients complained about the length of time it was taking for their applications to be approved, the woman is said to have refused to provide refunds and ceased all communication.

Court documents filed in Virginia reveal that the woman's alleged activities took place between June 2016 and January 2018. Prosecutors claim that she pocketed $101,800 in bogus immigration fees during that period. In addition to guaranteeing that immigration applications would be approved, the woman is said to have told her clients that she had a number of businesses prepared to hire immigrants and willing to sponsor work visas. Prosecutors say that these claims were also false.

Federal and state prosecutors often seek multiple indictments to give themselves a strong position from which to begin plea negotiations; the vast majority of criminal prosecutions are resolved at the negotiating table. When their clients are charged with white-collar crimes like embezzlement or fraud, experienced criminal defense attorneys might seek to secure more lenient treatment by pointing out the nonviolent nature of the offenses and cite mitigating factors such as sincere remorse and a previously unblemished record.

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