6 South Florida residents indicted for immigration benefit fraud

MIAMI - Six South Florida residents were indicted on charges of conspiracy to induce and encourage aliens to remain in the United States and making false statements in applications for immigration benefits following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The filing of false applications to obtain immigration benefits for individuals that are not authorized to be present in the United States puts the security of our communities at risk," said Anthony Mangione, ICE special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami. "Immigration benefits like these could be exploited by dangerous criminals to obscure their identities and cover their tracks. ICE will continue to aggressively pursue and criminally charge individuals who would exploit immigrant communities for their own self interests."

Indicted on federal charges on Oct. 29, were Victor Abreu, 45, of Sunny Isles; Pablo Roldan, 38, and Adriana Segundo-Zaldivar, 42, both of Hollywood; Sergio Alfaro, 45, and America Sophia George, 42, both of Miami; and Karina Vazquez, 37, formerly of Hallandale Beach. The six defendants were charged with conspiracy, false statements, and inducing and encouraging aliens to remain in the United States. If convicted, they each face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison.

On Monday, Nov. 2, ICE special agents arrested five of the six defendants; defendant Karina Vazquez remains a fugitive. The five arrested made their initial appearances Tuesday in federal court in Miami before U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan. Detention hearings have been scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5 at 10:00 a.m.

In May 2007, ICE special agents in Fort Lauderdale began an investigation of Victor Abreu of Abreu & Associates, based on allegations that he was involved in immigration benefit fraud. Abreu and his employees were allegedly preparing false boilerplate immigration applications for illegal immigrants, including applications for employment authorization and employment visas.

According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme through which they solicited payments from illegal immigrants by falsely promising to assist them with immigration matters. The defendants would then prepare applications for the illegal immigrants, knowing that the immigrants were not entitled to the benefits sought. The scheme involved the preparation of benefit applications for at least 300 individuals from Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Venezuela, and Mexico, among other countries. After receiving payments, Abreu and his co-defendants prepared the false immigration documents. To execute the scheme, Abreu falsely purported to be an immigration attorney and consultant. As a result of the scheme, some of the illegal immigrants obtained legitimate work authorization cards and driver's licenses to which they were not lawfully entitled.

Acting U. S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman said, "Fraudulent schemes, like the one charged in this case, undermine the legal immigration process and can threaten our national security. The U.S. Attorney's Office will continue to enforce the immigration laws."

Pablo Roldan of Argentina, Adriana Segundo-Zaldivar of Mexico and Sergio Alfaro of Argentina were also found to be in violation of U.S. immigration law and face immigration removal proceedings after their criminal cases are completed. ICE agents placed immigration detainers on the three defendants.

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Fort Lauderdale.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine Tashman.