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Document and Benefit Fraud
10/21/2009

Philadelphia man sentenced on immigration fraud and other federal crimes

PHILADELPHIA - A man from Willistown Township, Pa., was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on Oct. 21 after pleading guilty to three counts of immigration fraud, one count of illegally possessing a firearm silencer without a serial number, and one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Sean O'Neill, 49, pleaded guilty to the charges on April 16. During the proceeding, O'Neill admitted he fraudulently obtained U.S. permanent residence status by lying about his criminal record, his marriage and his membership in a prohibited organization. In his application for U.S. permanent residence, O'Neill denied having any prior arrests or criminal convictions when, in fact, he had four prior convictions in the United Kingdom. One of his arrests occurred when he was a member in the Fianna na h'Eireann, an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of British rule in Northern Ireland.

"This case reinforces ICE's commitment to enforcing our nation's immigration laws," said Andrew M. McLees, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Philadelphia. "We will continue to aggressively investigate immigration fraud and shut down vulnerabilities that pose a threat to our national security."

O'Neill admitted to various charges, including the following: falsely claiming he was a U.S. citizen during a judicial proceeding; possessing a foreign-manufactured silencer that without a serial number; and engaging in a conspiracy over more than 10-years to defraud the Internal Revenue Service of federal taxes. O'Neill owns a construction company, a restaurant and bar, and a property development business. During the conspiracy against the IRS, he paid some of his employees in cash to avoid paying the required federal payroll taxes to the IRS.

In addition to the imposed prison term, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Yohn Jr. ordered O'Neill to make restitution to the IRS in the amount of $395,000, and pay a $60,000 fine. According to court documents, O'Neill also agreed to voluntarily leave the United States by stipulating to an order of removal, and agreeing not to fight his removal proceedings in immigration court.

The agencies assisting in the ICE investigation included: the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Internal Revenue Service; and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nancy Beam Winter and Alexander T.H. Nguyen, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, prosecuted this case.

Immigration 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. ICE uproots the infrastructure of illegal immigration by detecting and deterring immigration fraud.

Individuals and criminal enterprises often use fraudulent documents to obtain driver's licenses and social security cards. Traffickers and alien smugglers use these documents to facilitate movement into and within the United States; and they are also used to shield illegal aliens from detection within our society. Fraudulent documents may be used to illegally obtain government financial benefits and entitlements intended for U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, and to obtain unauthorized employment.