Immigration Attorney Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Prison for Fraud Scheme and Identity Theft in Relation to Visa Applications

Friday, March 9, 2018

An Indianapolis, Indiana immigration attorney was sentenced today to 75 months in prison for defrauding the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and more than 250 of his clients by filing fraudulent visa applications and reaping approximately $750,000 in illegitimate fees.  Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Chicago made the announcement.

Joel Paul, 45, of Fishers, Indiana, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana.  In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Magnus-Stinson sentenced Paul to serve three years of supervised release, and ordered that he pay up to $750,000 in restitution to his victims.  In November 2017, Paul pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to submit fraudulent U-visa applications.

“Immigration fraud undermines not only the public’s faith in our institutions and the legal profession, it also jeopardizes public safety and compromises national security,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “Attorneys who commit such egregious fraud on our legal system and their own clients will be held accountable.”

“Immigration fraud presents a serious threat to the national security of our country,” said Special Agent in Charge Gibbons. “Illegal schemes like this not only undermine the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system, but they create potential security vulnerabilities while also cheating deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve.”

As part of his plea agreement, Paul admitted that from 2013 to 2017, he submitted more than 250 false Applications for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant on behalf of his clients and without their knowledge.  Those applications falsely asserted that Paul’s clients had been victims of a crime and had provided substantial assistance to law enforcement in investigating the crime.  With approximately 200 of the false applications, Paul submitted unauthorized copies of a certification he had obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of Indiana in 2013, using the certification without the USAO’s knowledge to falsely claim that the applicant had provided substantial assistance in a criminal prosecution.  In total, Paul charged his clients approximately $3,000 per application.

HSI investigated the case with the assistance of USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.  Trial Attorneys Molly Gaston, Peter M. Nothstein and Amanda Vaughn of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case.

Former Congressional Staffer Pleads Guilty to Extensive Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A former congressional staffer pleaded guilty today for his role in  orchestrating a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from charitable foundations and the individuals who ran those foundations to pay for personal expenses and to illegally finance a former congressman’s campaigns for public office, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas.

Jason T. Posey, 46, formerly of Houston, and currently residing in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering before Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas.  Sentencing is set for March 29, 2018.

According to admissions made in connection with Posey’s plea, Posey served as director of special projects and treasurer of the congressional campaign committee for former U.S. Congressman Stephen E. Stockman, 60, of the Houston, Texas area, from in or around January 2013 until in or around November 2013.  Posey admitted that, at Stockman’s direction, he and another congressional staffer, Thomas Dodd, 38, of the Houston, Texas area, illegally funneled $15,000 of charitable proceeds into Stockman’s campaign bank account and caused the campaign to file reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that falsely stated that the money was a contribution from their parents and from the staffers themselves.  According to Posey’s admissions, Stockman also directed Posey to send a letter to a charitable donor that falsely stated that the donor’s $350,000 donation had been used to support a charitable endeavor, when in fact the funds were actually used for other purposes, including Stockman’s campaigns for public office.

In connection with his plea, Posey also admitted that he and Stockman raised $450,571.65 to support Stockman’s 2014 Senate campaign by falsely representing to a donor that the funds would be used to support a legitimate independent expenditure by an independent advocacy group Posey created.  In fact, Posey admitted that Stockman personally directed and supervised the activities of the purportedly independent group, including the printing and mailing of hundreds of thousands of copies of a pro-Stockman publication to Texas voters.  Posey also admitted that he submitted a false affidavit to the FEC in order to conceal the scheme.

Dodd pleaded guilty on March 20 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to make illegal conduit contributions and false statements to the FEC.  Stockman’s trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 29, 2018.  The charges and allegations in this case are merely accusations.  Stockman is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The FBI and IRS-CI are investigating the case.  Trial Attorneys Ryan J. Ellersick and Robert J. Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

Naval Employee Pleads Guilty to Accepting More Than $250,000 in Cash Bribes From Unauthorized Liquor Buyers

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An employee of the U.S. Department of the Navy pleaded guilty today to accepting more than $250,000 in cash bribes from three people making unauthorized liquor purchases from the Navy Exchange Service Command where he worked, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Leo Lamont of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Northeast Field Office.

Eric Jex, 29, of Uniondale, New York, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert of the Eastern District of New York. Sentencing is set for Feb. 2, 2018.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, as a supervisory sales associate at the NEX at Mitchel Field in Garden City, New York, Jex was responsible for preparing and processing retail transactions, and he had direct authority to make decisions concerning large liquor orders and shipments from the NEX’s warehouse. He was also subject to policies limiting access to the NEX’s goods to authorized personnel, such as Navy service members, and requiring NEX employees to check purchasers’ IDs. In connection with his guilty plea, Jex admitted that from approximately November 2015 through December 2016, he agreed with three unauthorized purchasers, one of whom had a New York State Liquor License, to arrange repeated large purchases of liquor from the NEX. He allowed the three unauthorized purchasers access to the NEX’s low prices and frequently provided additional price-matching discounts to which the purchasers were not entitled. In exchange, the three unauthorized purchasers paid cash bribes to Jex, typically $5 to $20 per case of liquor. According to plea documents, these bribes added up to more than $250,000 for the period of the scheme.

The NCIS; U.S. Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau; and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Criminal Investigations Division investigated this case. Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Andrew Laing of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.