SAN DIEGO – Eleno Quinteros, Jr., the former vice president of operations for two airline mechanic staffing companies, was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 12 months in prison for making false statements in support of legal permanent resident petitions for dozens of the companies’ mechanics.
Quinteros, 46, of Chula Vista, Calif. previously admitted falsely certifying that he had received no payments from the mechanics, when in fact he had demanded and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars of unlawful fees from approximately 85 of them.
The case is the result of a multi-agency probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to his plea agreement, Quinteros demanded and collected as much as $567,480 from his foreign labor workers --including attorney fees –in connection with the applications, even though employers are prohibited by law from demanding payment for their fees. Less than half of the money Quinteros collected was paid to immigration attorneys assisting with the applications, while he kept an estimated $372,715 for himself.
“Legal permanent residency in the United States is not a bargaining chip that greedy employers can sell to the highest bidder,” said Adam Braverman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. “This office will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who commit immigration fraud.”
Quinteros was vice president of two different staffing companies, whose workers performed heavy maintenance on aircraft at a variety of airfields nationwide. He was responsible for recruiting Mexican aircraft mechanics to work in the United States for the companies, and for helping recruits to obtain work visas such as TN or H-2B visas.
According to the indictment, after assisting his recruits in obtaining work visas to come to the U.S., Quinteros agreed to help at least 85 of them pursue legal permanent residency in exchange for substantial fees. Quinteros directed many employees to deposit money into his wife’s bank account, or provide him with blank money orders, in order to conceal the source of the unlawful funds. Other funds were routed through a company bank account, where Quinteros falsely described them to the company bookkeeper as a “loan” from him to the company.
Quinteros collected as much as ten or twenty thousand dollars from some workers. Although he was well compensated by his two companies during his scheme, some of his recruits were forced to sell their homes and cars in order to finance the unlawful fees.
On August 10, Quinteros pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false claim in support of an immigration application. He admitted in his plea, however, that the underlying scheme involved more than 25 immigration documents. He was previously ordered to pay back in the amount of $292,526 to 52 of the identifiable victims of his scheme.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to making sure that those who commit visa fraud face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Michael Bishop, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Los Angeles Field Office. “The strong relationship we enjoy with our law enforcement partners on the Document Benefit Fraud Task Force and DSS’ global network of special agents working together to stop criminals from reaping illegal income by exploiting U.S. visas and foreign workers continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
“This is a perfect example of federal agencies working together to combat those trying to defraud the government,” stated U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Los Angeles District Director, Donna Campagnolo. “USCIS FDNS will continue playing a key role in USCIS efforts to safeguard the integrity of our immigration laws, protect American workers, and safeguard the Homeland.”