Flimflam Scheme Defrauds Aliens And Uncle Sam
An immigration form preparer scammed her clients and the U.S. government out of an estimated $250,000 by submitting fraudulent fee waiver applications. While Homeland Security Investigations touted the arrest of Perla Vidalez, no one at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has explained how it failed to detect and reject hundreds of bogus filings.
According to a government account, clients supplied Vidalez with immigration paperwork for submission to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Even though they didn’t qualify for a fee waiver, the El Paso woman altered the documents to claim it. She charged each client $600-$900, the required government fee, which she would pocket for herself.
“She managed to cheat both her clients, presumably including a lot of illegal aliens, and DHS simultaneously,” said David North of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
Vidalez submitted more than 320 doctored applications, and about 90 percent were granted fee waivers. In effect, USCIS exempted nearly 300 people who were, in fact, able to pay.
USCIS is largely funded by fees, not tax money. North notes, “The agency generally rubberstamps 85-90 percent of all applications.” (USCIS does not publish statistics specific to fee waiver applications, designated as Form I-912.)
Vidalez – who is charged with fraud and felonious misuse of visas, permits and other documents — saw an opportunity to rip off taxpayers, and she took it. With a little more diligence (i.e., doing their job) DHS overseers may well find more abusers out there.
The public can help, too. USCIS has a webpage where the public can report “Scams, Fraud and Misconduct.”