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Document and Benefit Fraud
05/09/2008

Hartford Immigration lawyer pleads guilty to federal document fraud charge

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Nora R. Dannehy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced today that Jose L. Del Castillo, 48, of Hartford, pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to one count of document fraud. Del Castillo is a lawyer and principal of Del Castillo & Associates, LLC, of Hartford. This case was investigated by ICE and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.

According to documents filed with the Court and statements made in court, Del Castillo's law practice has included, among other things, providing legal services in exchange for money to assist persons in obtaining immigration benefits, including employment authorization and permanent resident status. Del Castillo also owned and operated Mamacita's at the Forge Restaurant located at 539 Broad Street in Hartford. Through Mamacita's, Del Castillo submitted several Applications for Alien Employment, also known as an ETA-750, which sponsored aliens for employment at Mamacita's in various positions such as foreign food specialty cooks, waiters/waitresses and hostesses.

An ETA-750 application is the first step in the process of an alien obtaining an employment-based visa and it is submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor for adjudication. In order to receive an immigrant visa to perform skilled or unskilled labor in the United States, the alien must first obtain a formal certification from the Secretary of Labor that there are insufficient United States workers willing and qualified to perform the position in question and that the employment of the alien would not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of United States workers similarly employed.

In pleading guilty, Del Castillo admitted that, on behalf of aliens, he knowingly prepared and presented fraudulent ETA-750 applications to the U.S. Department of Labor, and a fraudulent Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The documents included false declarations, false assertions that Del Castillo represented alien beneficiaries, false statements about the job offer, and false statements about an alien beneficiary's work experience and qualification.

"Document fraud that is committed by an officer of the court is an egregious offense, as it compromises our immigration system," Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated. "Immigration attorneys who abuse their position of trust, and employers who lie on important immigration applications, will be vigorously prosecuted."

"Committing immigration fraud is a serious matter, and it is particularly disturbing when it is committed by an immigration attorney," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Boston. "Immigration benefit fraud will not be tolerated, and ICE will aggressively investigate anyone seeking to exploit and compromise our nation's immigration system."

"My office remains steadfast in its commitment to aggressively investigate fraud committed against the foreign labor certification process," said Gordon Heddell, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor. "We will continue to dedicate resources to protecting the integrity of the Department of Labor's foreign labor certification program."

Judge Chatigny has scheduled sentencing for July 28, 2008, at which time Del Castillo faces a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas P. Morabito and Calvin B. Kurimai.