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December 15, 2015San Jose, CA, United StatesDocument and Benefit Fraud

Former Bay Area immigration consultant sentenced on fraud and tax charges

Defendant promoted path to citizenship that had long since expired

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A former San Jose immigration consultant was sentenced to 18 months in jail Monday and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine for encouraging illegal immigration for private financial gain, mail fraud, and willfully contributing to a fraudulent tax return.

Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, 66, was convicted by a federal jury July 30, 2013, after a 12-day jury trial. The sentence 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 (USCIS), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte.  Judge Whyte also sentenced Sineneng-Smith to six months’ home confinement as a special condition of a three-year period of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution to her victims and to the IRS. The defendant will begin serving her sentence March 16, 2016.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consulting 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 the law had changed and 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 choose to undermine our nation’s legal immigration system will be held accountable for their actions,” said Tatum King, deputy special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement counterparts to investigate criminals who have no regard for the law and often disrupt the lives of innocent victims.”

In addition, Sineneng-Smith pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of willfully subscribing to a false tax return. In her plea agreement, Sineneng-Smith admitted she failed to disclose on her tax returns some of the income she received from her immigration consultation business for the 2002 and 2003 tax years.  The omission of this income materially understated her gross income on the returns.