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Document and Benefit Fraud

3 South Florida residents plead guilty in immigration benefit fraud scheme

MIAMI - Three South Florida residents that were indicted on Oct. 29 on charges of conspiracy to induce and encourage aliens to remain in the United States and making false statements in applications for immigration benefits pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court for their involvement in an immigration benefit fraud scheme.

On Dec. 17, Adriana Segundo Zaldivar, 42, of Hollywood, Fla., Sergio Gabriel Alfaro, 45, and America George, 42, both of Miami, entered a plea of guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke on charges of conspiracy to provide false statements to a federal agency. Sentencing for Segundo Zaldivar and Alfaro has been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 22 and sentencing for George has been scheduled for March 3, 2010.

Co-defendants Victor Abreu, 45, of Sunny Isles, and Pablo Roldan, 38, of Hollywood, are in federal custody pending trial on charges of conspiracy, false statements, and inducing and encouraging aliens to remain in the United States. Karina Vazquez, 37, formerly of Hallandale Beach, remains a fugitive.

"The filing of false applications to obtain immigration benefits for individuals that are not authorized to be present in the United States puts the security of our communities at risk," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami. "Immigration benefits like these could be exploited by dangerous criminals to obscure their identities and cover their tracks. ICE will continue to aggressively pursue and criminally charge individuals who would exploit immigrant communities for their own self interests."

In May 2007, ICE special agents in Fort Lauderdale began an investigation of Victor Abreu of Abreu & Associates, based on allegations that he was involved in immigration benefit fraud. Abreu and his employees were allegedly preparing false boilerplate immigration applications for illegal immigrants, including applications for employment authorization and employment visas.

The defendants were charged with engaging in a scheme through which they solicited payments from illegal immigrants by falsely promising to assist them with immigration matters. Segundo Zaldivar, Gabriel Alfaro and George pleaded guilty to making false statements on immigration benefit applications for the illegal immigrants, knowing that the immigrants were not entitled to the benefits sought. The scheme involved the preparation of benefit applications for at least 300 individuals from Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Venezuela, and Mexico, among other countries. After receiving payments, Abreu and his co-defendants prepared the false immigration documents. To execute the scheme, Abreu falsely purported to be an immigration attorney and consultant. As a result of the scheme, some of the illegal immigrants obtained legitimate work authorization cards and driver's licenses to which they were not lawfully entitled.

Pablo Roldan of Argentina, Adriana Segundo-Zaldivar of Mexico and Sergio Alfaro of Argentina were also found to be in violation of U.S. immigration law and face immigration removal proceedings after their criminal cases are completed. Segundo-Zaldivar and Alfaro will be transferred into ICE custody at the completion of their criminal sentence.

Acting United States Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman said, "Immigration fraud undermines the public's faith in our system, as it provides benefits to those who are willing to break the laws. We will continue to work to make our immigration system free from fraud."

The case was investigated by ICE's Office of Investigations in Fort Lauderdale.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine Tashman.