LOS ANGELES – A Lynwood woman who dropped out of law school – but who later allegedly stole the identity and bar license number of a New York attorney – surrendered herself Monday night on federal charges that accuse her of filing immigration petitions on behalf of foreign nationals who believed she was a legitimate lawyer.
Jessica Godoy Ramos, 36, was taken into custody pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges her with mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ramos is expected to make her initial appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court.
The case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with substantial assistance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate and the San Gabriel Police Department.
According to the criminal complaint, Ramos accepted thousands of dollars from several dozen aliens who sought her services in an attempt to obtain legal status in the United States. The complaint affidavit alleges that Ramos filed immigration petitions on the behalf of some aliens, but in other cases she never performed any services for her clients. In at least one instance, Ramos created counterfeit immigration parole documents which a client was able to use to enter the United States.
According to the complaint, Ramos’ clients initially believed she was a legitimate immigration attorney, but several became suspicious when Ramos directed them to appear at USCIS offices for interviews – but they did not have any scheduled appointments.
“The crimes alleged in this case victimized dozens of immigrants who were attempting to realize the American dream by paying someone they thought was a lawyer,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “This type of scam, which unfortunately targets new immigrants too often, undermines our immigration system and can shatter dreams of obtaining legal status to remain in the United States.”
Federal authorities began investigating Ramos in February after the HSI-led Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force received a tip from USCIS about five of Ramos’ clients who went to USCIS offices in downtown Los Angeles expecting to pick up their non-existent “Green Cards.”
“People who wish to file for benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have a right to proper representation,” said USCIS Los Angeles District Director Donna Campagnolo. “This case is a good example of all agencies involved working together to ensure that the integrity of the program is preserved and individuals are able to retain proper representation to aide them through the process.”
If she were to be convicted, Ramos would face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for the mail fraud count and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for the aggravated identity theft charge