LOS ANGELES – This week, two immigration fraud perpetrators were sentenced to prison due to the considerable efforts of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Los Angeles Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit. Los Angeles FDNS immigration officers worked closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to resolve potential fraud, national security and public safety concerns, and to ensure exchange of current and comprehensive information.
“Convictions in both cases send a powerful message to anyone trying to take advantage of our community or defraud the government,” said USCIS Los Angeles District Director Donna Campagnolo. “Fighting fraud and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system are top priorities for USCIS. We remain committed and vigilant in weeding out bad actors.”
On Wednesday, Jessica Godoy Ramos, 37, of Lynwood, California, was sentenced for stealing the identity of a New York attorney and filing immigration petitions on behalf of foreign nationals who believed she was a legitimate lawyer. Ramos was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, and upon completion of the 15-month prison term, Ramos will spend six months in home detention. Calling the crimes “despicable,” presiding U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee also ordered Ramos to pay $29,693 in restitution to 16 identified victims.
Ramos accepted tens of thousands of dollars from dozens of aliens who sought her services in an attempt to obtain legal status in the United States. Using the name of the genuine attorney, Ramos filed immigration petitions on the behalf of some aliens, but in other cases, she never performed any services for her clients. Ramos also created counterfeit immigration parole documents to make it appear that she had successfully represented the aliens.
According to court documents, Ramos’ clients initially believed she was a legitimate immigration attorney, but several became suspicious when Ramos directed them to appear at USCIS offices for interviews – but they did not have any scheduled appointments.
The second sentencing, which took place yesterday, involved the owner of four schools. The owner enrolled hundreds of foreign nationals to fraudulently obtain immigration documents, which allowed them to remain in the United States as “students” – even though they rarely, if ever, attended classes. Hee Sun Shim , 54, of Hancock Park, Calif. was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to forfeit more than $450,000.
Shim, along with two co-defendants, ran a “pay-to-stay” scheme through three schools in Koreatown: Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center; and the American College of Forensic Studies. A fourth school in Alhambra – Likie Fashion and Technology College – was also involved in the scheme, which ran for at least five years.
USCIS continually takes measures to detect and deter immigration benefit fraud and aggressively pursues benefit fraud cases in collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies. FDNS will continue playing a key role in USCIS efforts to safeguard the integrity of immigration laws, protect American workers, and safeguard the homeland.
USCIS also encourages the public to make sure the person helping with an immigration case is authorized to give legal advice. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Department of Justice (DOJ) recognized organization can give legal advice. For more information about avoiding immigration scams, visit Avoid Scams webpage on uscis.gov.