Search for Potential Victims of Immigration Fraud Continues

August 3, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

One-hundred and fifty victims of a scheme that defrauded immigrants of approximately $6 million have been identified, but FBI investigators believe there are possibly more victims and are encouraging people to come forward.

According to the FBI victim search website, the men claimed to be able to obtain immigration benefits like green cards, employment authorization cards, and more, for fees typically at $10,000 or more.

The San Diego Division of the FBI is seeking possible victims from 2000 to 2017 and urging individuals who find similarities in this investigation to what might have happened to them to reach out by emailing SDImmigrationFraud@ic.fbi.gov or filling out an online form on their victim website.

Davene Butler, spokesperson for the San Diego Division of the FBI, said potential victims simply need to provide their name, phone number, and prefered language in the email and an agent will contact them.

Jesse Navarro, spokesperson for the San Diego County District Attorney’s office, said victims might be worried about coming forward because of their immigration status, so he is offering to provide a connection between the investigative agency, and a community that fears contacting authorities.

Navarro said regardless of immigration status, “victims are victims.”

Possible victims can meet with him and he will provide the information to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

In cases such as this, there is no guarantee that individuals will be protected from immigration enforcement, but Davene said victims coming forward makes a difference in the case.

On June 7, three individuals were arrested for their part in a scheme that involved defrauding victims who were seeking legal immigration status in the United States.

Hardev Panesar, 69, and Rafael Hastie, 47, posed as officers of the Department of Homeland Security and promised individuals that they could obtain immigration status in exchange for exorbitant fees, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

Gurdev Singh, 56, is also charged for assisting Panesar and Hastie in the scheme.

“Panesar and Hastie convinced victims that they were agents, in part, because they showed fake agency credentials when meeting with victims,” according to the release. “Panesar and Hastie also provided immigration application to victims and took fingerprints supposedly for immigration forms.”

The men are currently awaiting trial.

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