LOS ANGELES â€“ A West Hills man has pled guilty to visa fraud for filing boguspaperwork on behalf of businesses seeking temporary work visas, as well asfraudulently charging prospective immigrants in Mexico thousands of dollars for visas.Carlos Alberto Silva, 29, of West Hills, was arrested last month at his business inCanoga Park by special agents with the State Departmentâ€™s Diplomatic Security Serviceand U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A criminal complaint filed June 7, 2011 in United States District Court chargedSilva with visa fraud. The complaint alleged that Silva, who operated Silva andAssociates in Canoga Park, submitted fraudulent employment-based immigrationpetitions on behalf of legitimate business to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Servicesand the United States Department of Labor to obtain work visas for alien workers. Aspart of the scheme, Silva also was involved with Mexican recruitment agencies thatcharged aliens approximately 50,000 pesos â€“ $3,000 to $4,000 â€“ to seek visas thatwould allow them to enter the United States.
On July 11, 2011, Silva pled guilty to visa fraud pursuant to a written pleaagreement.
This conviction further demonstrates the Justice Departments commitment toprosecuting the notarios and scam artists who seek to victimize the most vulnerableamong us – the hard-working men and women in our immigrant communities, saidUnited States Attorney AndrÃ© Birotte Jr.
In the plea agreement, Silva admitted to falsely holding himself out as anattorney and offering legal services to businesses that needed help hiring unskilledtemporary alien workers. Silva also admitted to filing on behalf of his clients fraudulentpetitions that falsely claimed that the businesses needed more employees â€“ and morework visas â€“ than the businesses actually had requested from Silva. Filing petitionswith inflated numbers is known as â€œbenching.â€
While he was operating Silva and Associates, Silva was also involved in severalMexico-based recruitment agencies with names such as â€œInterAmerica,â€ â€œAmericanJobsâ€ and â€œAmerican Employment Agency Mexico SC.â€ These businesses chargedapproximately 50,000 pesos â€“ $3,000 to $4,000 â€“ to seek visas on behalf of Mexicans.Federal regulations prohibit the approval of work-based immigration visa petitions if thealien pays a job-placement or other recruiting fee. Silva admitted that he knowingly andintentionally failed to disclose the payments by these aliens in the petitions filed withUSCIS.
Silva continues to be held on a $40,000 bond. He is scheduled to be sentencedon November 7, 2011. Visa fraud is a felony offense that carries a statutory maximumsentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The case against Silva was investigated by the United States Department ofState, Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementâ€™s(ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Document and Benefit Fraud TaskForce.