Former Mercer Island Resident Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Immigrants with Promises of Legal Status
Woman took Large Fees Promising Immigrants Assistance from Fictitious Worker
A former resident of Mercer Island, Washington, who stole more than $220,000 from immigrants with promises of immigration assistance pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Wire Fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. DALIA IVETTE SINGH, 61, also known as Dalia Pena of Clearwater, Florida, defrauded more than 40 immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America. SINGH charged some families as much as $36,000, claiming she had a contact in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who could provide the immigrants with legal status in the United States. SINGH claimed her USCIS contact ran a special program the immigrants could use to get legal status. There was no such program and no USCIS contact – SINGH made it all up to defraud the victims. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones is scheduled for January 22, 2016.
“This defendant preyed on victims whose dream was to become a U. S. citizen, said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Although she held herself out as someone who could help, she never did, and instead took advantage of the victims' church affiliations and networks of friends to enrich herself.”
According to records filed in the case, between 2008 and 2011 SINGH represented to various people that she could assist them with obtaining legal status in the United States. The victims were immigrants without legal status in the United States. SINGH claimed she had a contact at USCIS who could provide legal status if the victim would pay SINGH a $5,000 fee. SINGH claimed the immigration program required enrollment of a group of people, not just individuals, and so encouraged the victims to recruit more people to enroll with them. In one instance, SINGH defrauded about thirty members of a church of nearly $100,000 with her false promises.
"Those who profit by preying on vulnerable members of the immigrant community will pay a hefty price for their crimes,” said Shawn Fallah, resident agent in charge of the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Pacific Northwest. "We’re committed to safeguarding the public from scam artists and others who exploit people’s false hopes for no other reason than to enrich themselves.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, SINGH will pay restitution of $222,900. Prosecutors will recommend 18 months in prison and SINGH will request no less than one year in prison. Judge Jones is free to impose any sentence up to the 20 year maximum allowed by law.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Erin Becker.
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