On March 13, SDNY announced that two individuals were charged for visa fraud conspiracy involving the Moroccan Consulate and Mission in New York. The complaint includes an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”), a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. Footnote #5 in the complaint says that the USG anticipates that it will enter into a non-prosecutorial agreement with each of the seven domestic workers, all nationals of the Philippines). Footnote #6 notes that the DSS Special Agent is aware that as an ambassador accredited to the Moroccan Mission of the United Nations, CC-1 possesses full diplomatic immunity under Article V of the United Nations Agreement and Article (39)1)of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Christian J. Schurman, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”) at the United States Department of State, announced today the arrest of MARIA LUISA ESTRELLA JAIDI (“JAIDI”), who was charged by complaint along with her brother, RAMON SINGSON ESTRELLA (“ESTRELLA”), for their involvement in a conspiracy to commit visa fraud, make materially false statements, and induce aliens to illegally come to, enter, and reside in the United States. JAIDI was arrested today in Ancramdale, New York, and will be presented this afternoon in White Plains federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison. ESTRELLA remains at large.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated: “As alleged, the defendants abused our nation’s process for admitting consular officials in order to bring domestic workers into this country for their own monetary gain and lifestyle. On top of that, Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi exploited these workers by not providing them the critical protections and benefits they would have been entitled to had they been properly brought to this country with the appropriate visas. Today’s charges demonstrate that fraud and abuse of this type will not be tolerated.”
DSS Director Christian J. Schurman said: “DSS demonstrated its commitment to protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of foreign nationals visiting the United States. We will continue to pursue those who abuse domestic worker visas to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain. DSS’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court:
From approximately 2006 up to 2016, JAIDI and ESTRELLA conspired with an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”) to fraudulently procure visas for at least seven Filipino domestic workers (the “Domestic Workers”). CC-1 is a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. From approximately 1980 through approximately 2016, CC-1 and JAIDI were married.
In order to fraudulently obtain visas for the Domestic Workers, JAIDI and CC-1 caused the Domestic Workers to submit visa applications containing materially false statements and to submit fraudulent employment contracts in support of those visa applications. ESTRELLA – who is JAIDI’s brother and who resides in the Philippines – helped recruit several of the Domestic Workers in the Philippines to work for JAIDI and CC-1 in the United States and instructed the Domestic Workers to make false statements in their visa applications and to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
In particular, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused five of the Domestic Workers to falsely state in their visa applications that they would be employed as secretaries, administrative assistants, or technicians at the Moroccan Mission or at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Morocco in Manhattan. In addition, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused each of the Domestic Workers to submit fraudulent employment contracts to the State Department in support of their visa applications. The fraudulent employment contracts also overstated the Domestic Workers’ salaries, understated their hours, and falsely guaranteed benefits, including, among others, sick leave, dental insurance, and medical insurance.
Once the Domestic Workers arrived in the United States, JAIDI and CC-1 employed the workers as their personal drivers, domestic helpers, farmhands, and assistants at their residence in Bronxville, New York, as well as at their farm in Ancramdale, New York. JAIDI and CC-1 paid the Domestic Workers significantly less than the minimum salary required by law and regularly compelled them to work far in excess of 40 hours per week. In addition, JAIDI and CC-1 generally denied the Domestic Workers the benefits set forth in their employment contracts, compelled the Domestic Workers to work seven days a week, and required the Domestic Workers to surrender their passports.