LOS ANGELES - A Riverside, Calif., man is scheduled to make his first court appearance this afternoon after federal authorities arrested him yesterday on charges of filing nearly a thousand fraudulent petitions with U.S. immigration and labor authorities, which allowed him to obtain work visas and other immigration and labor benefits for more than 550 aliens.
Alexander Sales Vista, 61, was arrested yesterday morning by agents with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Vista was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles that charges him with visa fraud, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Over the course of more than 10 years, Vista allegedly filed nearly 1,000 fraudulent petitions that sought work visas for more than 550 aliens, whom Vista claimed were going to work at companies he owned. Many of the aliens were granted work visas. However, according to the complaint, the jobs often did not exist and the companies were simply shell companies that did not conduct any real business. In some cases, the aliens worked for Vista, but they were paid substantially less than what Vista told Labor Department and immigration officials.
Charging the aliens between $7,000 and $12,000 to file a petition, Vista made nearly $5 million over the course of his visa fraud scheme.
Vista allegedly applied for the work visas on behalf of the aliens using at least five different shell companies that Vista claimed had skilled jobs for the aliens. For example, the complaint alleges that using a company he called Professional Staffing Services of America, Vista submitted a petition claiming that an alien would work full-time as a permanent market research analyst making $1,804 per week. After immigration authorities issued the work visa, the alien never worked for Vista and, instead, worked part-time at a flower shop. According to the complaint, Vista charged that alien and her husband at least $12,000 to file fraudulent work visa petitions.
The complaint further alleges that Vista charged the aliens a regular fee equal to the amount an alien would have paid in income taxes if that alien had actually been employed by Vista. In most cases, Vista allegedly kept these “tax” payments, but would sometimes pay a portion to the government to give the illusion that the aliens were actually employed by Vista. The complaint also alleges that Vista issued fake pay stubs to the aliens to give the false impression that they were employed by Vista.
“This type of immigration fraud wholly undermines a system that was carefully designed to allow workers to come to the U.S. because their particular skills are needed in our market,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “We will prosecute and seek punishment for those who seek to corrupt this system, take advantage of our national labor and immigration policies, and do so just to turn a profit.”
“It appears that the defendant involved in this scheme knew the law and manipulated it for his personal profit,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. “ICE will not hesitate to move aggressively against those who conspire to compromise the integrity of our nation's immigration system solely to enrich themselves.”