BALTIMORE – A Maryland man was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release for conspiring to commit immigration fraud.
Gasim Manafov, 36, of Ocean City, Md., and Charlotte, N.C., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Baltimore County Police Department.
"Benefit fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States under a guise of legitimacy," said HSI Ocean City Resident Agent in Charge Francis J. McGarvey. "HSI will work with our partners at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in an effort to maintain the integrity of the immigration system by vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals like Gasim Manafov, who try to exploit the asylum process."
According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to 2012, Manafov conspired with others in assisting approximately 70 individuals to fraudulently apply for asylum benefits. Manafov gave the individuals fake stories to describe how the applicant’s family was purportedly hurt or killed due to political or ethnic affiliation. He provided fake foreign documents to prove these stories. Manafov prepared the applicants for interviews with officials, and attended the interviews. He also referred an applicant to a co-conspirator knowing that they would engage in a fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes, suggested that the applicant apply for immigration benefits in the Miami U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to avoid the scrutiny he knew he was under in the Baltimore USCIS office, and coached the applicant on how to lie to officials interviewing her.
Manafov obtained $210,000 from the individuals fraudulently applying for asylum benefits.
Two other conspirators previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and were sentenced to one and three months in prison, respectively.
The case was prosecuted in the District of Maryland by Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry M. Gruber.