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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Innovative Attorney Arrested in Cemetery Plot Money Laundering Scheme

Immigration attorney charged with perpetrating visa fraud to buy grave sites
Daily News Wire Services - October 16, 2010

"Attorneys are sworn to uphold the law, and those who instead manipulate the system through fraud deserve criminal prosecution," said Acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona.

West Covina, CA - An immigration atorney was due before a federal judge for the first time on Friday in connection with an alleged decade-long employment visa fraud scheme in which profits were used to buy vacant grave sites in Whittier as an investment. Kelly Einstein Darwin Giles, 46, owner of a West Covina law practice formerly known as the East West Law Group, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at Los Angeles International Airport late Thursday as he returned from an out-of-town trip. His two business associates, Joseph Wai-man Wu, 50, and Wu's wife, May Yin-man Wu, 43, were arrested early Thursday, ICE officials said. The three are accused of setting up nearly a dozen shell companies in order to file fraudulent employment visa petitions on behalf of their clients. Many of the petitions were for H-1B visas, which are reserved for foreign workers with specialized skills, such as accountants and information technology professionals. Authorities allege the aliens named in those visa applications never worked for the defendants or the fictitious companies. ICE agents, executing a search warrant at Giles' law office, seized immigration applications and documents, financial records and computer equipment. The Wus made their initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, where a magistrate set bond for each at $250,000. Giles was due in court Friday afternoon.

"Attorneys are sworn to uphold the law, and those who instead manipulate the system through fraud deserve criminal prosecution," said Acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona. "United States immigration laws are intended to provide benefits to individuals who meet specified criteria -- not immigration attorneys and opportunists who manipulate the system for personal financial gain," Cardona said. Also Thursday, ICE agents served notice on a local mortuary seeking to seize 30 vacant burial plots and 20 blank grave monuments. Authorities allege the grave sites, located in Inspiration Meadow and the Garden of Gratitude at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, were bought by the defendants using proceeds from the visa fraud scheme. ICE investigators emphasize that Rose Hills had no involvement in the alleged criminal activity. According to funeral professionals, cemetery plots appreciate at a rate of up to 10 percent a year and are less susceptible to economic downturns than other types of real estate. The seizure action is believed to be the first in the Central District of California involving grave sites. If the plots are ultimately forfeited to the government, they would be sold at public auction. "Cemetery plots are certainly a novel way to attempt to launder the proceeds from criminal activity, but as this case shows, we will follow the money trail wherever it leads," said John Morton, Homeland Security assistant secretary for ICE. "ICE's message is simple -- America's legal immigration system is not for sale, and we will investigate and prosecute those who compromise the integrity of our system simply to enrich themselves," Morton said. The nearly 200-page case affidavit alleges the defendants charged anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000 to file fraudulent employment visa petitions on behalf of alien clients. So far, investigators have identified about 100 aliens for whom fraudulent petitions were filed. Authorities say some of those foreign nationals may have ultimately adjusted to permanent resident status and received "green cards." Agents are continuing to review immigration records to identify any ineligible foreign nationals who may have received employment visas as a result of the defendants' alleged actions, according to ICE.


wondering said...

Hey, can we get this US Attorney Cardona to NYC, ASAP. Perhaps he's not beholden to Senator Schumer's crooked friends (read: one Bernard Madoff) Cardona will be like a pig in shit with all the crooked lawyers he can sink his teeth into in NYC.

3 cheers said...

You must admire the creativity of this lawyer.
Any street thug would admire such thinking.
The scum of the earth would surely look up to this officer of the court.
Any attorney-felon would be quite proud.

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