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Document and Benefit Fraud
03/10/2008

2 attorneys at immigration law firm sentenced for roles in visa fraud scheme

Los Angeles, Calif. - A name partner and an attorney at one of the West Coast's largest immigration law firms were sentenced today for filing fraudulent employment visa applications on behalf of foreign nationals, including more than a dozen of the law firm's own workers.

Daniel E. Korenberg, 58, of Encino, a partner and founder of the law firm formerly known as Korenberg, Abramowitz & Feldun (KAF), was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release with a condition that Korenberg serve an additional 6 months in home detention with electronic monitoring, and a fine of $750,000. Korenberg pleaded guilty last fall to two counts of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

A second attorney, Steven James Rodriguez, 41, of Thousand Oaks, a senior associate at KAF, was sentenced to three years probation with the condition that Rodriguez serve 6 months of home detention with electronic monitoring and perform 200 hours of community service. Rodriguez pleaded guilty last fall to one count of making false statements to federal agents.

Both men were sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson.

Korenberg and Rodriguez were charged in a 33-count indictment handed down in February 2007 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the California Employment Development Department. According to the indictment, beginning in 2000 and continuing through at least February 2003, the defendants filed fraudulent employment-based visa petitions on behalf of foreign nationals seeking temporary work authorization or permanent residency in the United States. At least 19 of the aliens who benefitted from the visa fraud scheme were KAF employees.

"These sentences are stern reminders about the consequences awaiting those who conspire to compromise the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system," said Jennifer Silliman, deputy special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "Disturbingly, the defendants in this case used their expertise in immigration law not for the greater good, but to undermine the system and enrich themselves.
KAF, which is now known as ASK Law Group, is based in the San Fernando Valley community of Sherman Oaks, and the firm maintains offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas.

 "These sentences successfully conclude the investigation and prosecution of two attorneys who filed false documentation for personal gain, facilitating the illegal entry of foreign nationals into the United States," said Gordon Heddell, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "We will continue to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's Office to protect the integrity of the DOL's foreign labor certification program."

The other named partner at KAF, Phillip Abramowitz, 54, of Agoura Hills, a former equity partner at KAF, pleaded guilty to two counts of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24.

Court papers filed in the case detail how KAF hired foreign nationals without work authorization for a variety of support positions, including paralegal jobs. The defendants then allegedly applied for fraudulent work visas for those employees and paid them "off the books" in cash until the visas were approved. To support the visa petitions, Korenberg and others created documents making false claims about the aliens' work experience and offers of employment. Korenberg and others made false statements to the U.S. government in connection with immigration and labor petitions filed on behalf of KAF employees. Rodriguez and others made false statements to the U.S. government in connection with immigration petitions filed on behalf of KAF clients.

In addition to the law firm, the probe targeted two Los Angeles-area employment agencies, Job Seekers International and Employmasters International. The investigation revealed that the employment agencies identified employers, both real and fictitious, to attest that the aliens seeking the work visas were being recruited for highly skilled jobs that, in most instances, did not exist. In 2005, the three owners of those employment agencies and one of their employees pleaded guilty to visa fraud and conspiracy charges.

Those four defendants are awaiting sentencing.

The other defendants charged in the case are:

  • Heidi Poepping, 45, of Moorpark, a paralegal at KAF, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit visa fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 21, 2008 ;
  • Arturo Valencia, 56, of Walnut, the owner of Job Seekers International, pleaded guilty two years ago to one count of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12, 2008;
  • Maria Theresa Resurreccion, 40, of Anaheim, an employee of Job Seekers International, pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced May 5, 2008;
  • Arnel Dizon, 36, of Corona, a co-owner of Employmasters International, pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 28, 2008; and
  • Marlyn Rodriguez Dizon (Arnel’s wife), 44, of Los Angeles, a co-owner of Employmasters International, pleaded guilty in May 2005 to one count of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2008.