Cute Alpacas for Visas and Some Corruption News

A group of cute alpacas
From Wikipedia, licensed under cca 2.5

Despite economic troubles in the U.S., some Chinese still go to great lengths to get there.
Gady Epstein of in Your Alpaca For A Visa? (04.23.09, 06:00 PM EDT) writes about a couple of Chinese who had posed as livestock farmers interested in buying at least 40 to 50 alpacas from a Tennessee farmer so they could get a credible letter of invitation to visit his farm and be approved for visas. He writes that “the going rate for a full-service visa package, including fake documents, coaching for your visa interview and help landing a job once you’re in the U.S., is as much as $15,000 to $17,500, and for that, a customer may end up as, say, a cook in a Chinese restaurant, working 70 to 80 hours a week for less than $2,000 a month. Who wants to go to that kind of trouble to seek that kind of opportunity?”

Probably the kind who did not want to sneak through the drug-cartel infested southern border? I mean — think about it, why would anyone want to crawl through a tunnel where who knows what you might see, or who might be shooting at you — if there is another option? Alpacas are the other option. Or emus, wild wilkworms or nanotech spiders; heck, could be anything with a creative twist that has not been heard of before …

The bad news for scam artists and their friends is that DS special agents who conducts visa and passport fraud and related crimes are still on the job despite demands for their services in Iraq and elsewhere. DS-assisted arrests rose for the fourth consecutive year, achieving a 23 percent increase over 2007.

Extracted from DS 2008 Year In Review

In related news in the world of scams and corruption …

A federal jury returned a guilty verdict against HASMUKH PATEL, 54, of McDonough, Georgia, on a dozen counts related to a fraud and bribery scheme and a conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to come to and reside in the United States on April 13, 2009. Patel, a former Immigration Adjudicator with Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) was convicted on 12 counts.

According to United States Attorney Nahmias and the information presented in court: Witnesses testified that from March of 2005 through August 2007, PATEL took actions to bring a foreign national couple to this country based on fraudulent work visas. PATEL was found guilty of submitting fraudulent visa applications to the Department of Labor and to the Department of Homeland Security. As part of the scheme, a witness testified, he paid PATEL $100,000 to bring his brother and sister-in-law into the United States. PATEL had stated in the visa application that the foreign national woman would work in his home, caring for his wife, but she never did. Evidence at trial established that the couple instead went to Brunswick, Georgia, to work in the family convenience store. PATEL wrote a series of checks to the visa recipient to make it appear that the woman worked in his home, when she did not.

Witnesses from the United States Consulate in Mumbai, India, testified that PATEL called the consulate to vouch for the veracity of the visa application, informing a consular official he was employed by the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Service. Consular officials later alerted investigators that the defendant was attempting to bring in another couple on the same type of temporary work visa. The evidence showed that PATEL also accessed his DHS computer to see if he or a visa recipient were under investigation. Read the whole thing here.

Still over at DHS this time with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — Former Deputy Assistant Director of International Operations at DHS/ICE, GERARDO CHAVEZ, was sentenced recently to 90 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to make forfeiture of various assets. Chavez, age 46, of Clifton, Va., pleaded guilty on Nov. 6, 2008 to accepting bribes in exchange for official acts and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and money laundering.

According to court documents, from August 2003 to August 2007 while serving [at the American Embassy] in Caracas, Venezuela, as a Supervisory Special Agent and Attaché for ICE (formerly U.S. Customs Service), Chavez used his official position to steer $2.8 million in sole source U.S. government contracts to Caracas-based Blindajes Del Caribe (Blincar). The contracts were to purchase and armor 4-wheel drive vehicles to be used by U.S. law enforcement and government personnel throughout the South America and Caribbean region. Chavez received kick-backs totaling $172,000 from the owner of Blincar and anticipated another $87,000 from the scheme prior to its being uncovered by U.S. government law enforcement agents. Read more here.

In the CentreView Southern Edition, the Judge was quoted as asking about Chavez’s motive. Chavez with voice breaking said, “There’s nothing I can say to change what I did; I committed a crime. The money is all gone.”

“Why did you do it?” the judge asked again. Replied Chavez: “I think I was in a place where, unfortunately, I got carried away, being there in that environment.” More from the community newspaper:

Crying, Chavez said, “I lost my career — something I did well for 23 years. I lost my law-enforcement retirement, my home, car, wife, kids. I’ve disgraced my family — which is the worst part. I know you’re obligated to send a message to others. I only ask that you leave me hope to be reunited with my kids within a reasonable amount of time. There’s no excuse and no explanation.” “When we lose the honest services of our public servants, we lose a great deal,” said [Judge] Ellis. He also noted that these vehicles “were not really well-armed,” after all.

Addressing Chavez, the judge commented on his “remarkable career” and called him a person of intelligence and ability. But, he said, “Public corruption is truly a cancer on the body politic, and we need a sentence that stands as a beacon, a deterrent and a warning to other public officials that corruption will not be tolerated.”

Federal prosecutors apparently also listed as an aggravating factor the fact that Chavez approved 325 preferential procedures for expediting U.S. visas applied for by business friends and as favors.