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Document and Benefit Fraud
08/01/2013

San Jose "consultant" convicted for immigration benefit fraud

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A San Jose woman was convicted by a federal jury Tuesday of three counts of encouraging illegal immigration for personal gain and three counts of mail fraud, following a 13-day jury trial in U.S. District Court.

Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, 66, was indicted by a federal grand jury July 14, 2010. The prosecution is the result of a three-year, multi-agency investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consultation business in San Jose from 1990 to 2008, where she advised foreign nationals – mainly Filipino citizens who came to the United States on visitors' visas – that they could obtain lawful permanent residence in the U.S. by applying for labor certification from DOL. Smith charged her victims $5,900 to file for the labor certifications, all the while knowing that in fact, the law had changed, and that her clients would not qualify for the benefit under existing regulations.

According to the testimony of several victims, Sineneng-Smith not only failed to inform them that they were ineligible to obtain legal permanent residence under the updated laws, but also encouraged them to overstay their tourist visas so they could work illegally in residential healthcare facilities. Evidence showed Sineneng-Smith deposited more than $3.3 million in client payments from August 2004 through 2007.

"Those who corrupt the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system must understand there are serious consequences for those actions," said Joseph Vincent, assistant special agent in charge of HSI San Jose. "We will continue to work with our counterparts to investigate those who manipulate and exploit that system for their own personal financial gain."

Sineneng-Smith is scheduled to be sentenced November 4.  The maximum penalty for each count of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The maximum penalty for each count of mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, in addition to restitution.