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Document and Benefit Fraud

New York City lawyer sentenced to 5 years in prison for operating substantial immigration fraud scheme

NEW YORK – An immigration lawyer will spend five years in federal prison for leading an immigration fraud scheme. The sentence is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Inspector General.

Earl Seth David, 45, ran a scheme in which he and his co-conspirators applied for legal status for tens of thousands of illegal aliens based on phony claims that they had been sponsored for employment by U.S. employers.

David was indicted October 2011, and extradited to the United States from Canada in January 2012. He pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

According to the court documents, U.S. law permits an alien to petition for legal status if the alien has obtained certification from DOL certifying that a U.S. employer wishes to employ or sponsor the alien. An alien who obtains DOL certification can then use it to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – to obtain legal status in the United States.

From 1996 until early 2009, David operated a Manhattan-based immigration law firm (David Firm) that took in millions of dollars in fees from its alien-clients for purportedly securing them legal immigration status. In return for fees of up to $30,000 per alien-client, the David Firm applied for and obtained thousands of DOL certifications based upon phony employment sponsorships and fabricated documents. These documents included: fake pay stubs, fake tax returns and fake experience letters, purporting to show that the sponsorships were real and that the aliens possessed special employment skill sets justifying labor-based certification by DOL.

In reality, the sponsors had no intention of hiring the aliens, and the sponsor companies often did not even exist other than as shell companies for use in the fraudulent scheme.

As a result of the fraud, DOL issued thousands of certifications, and immigration authorities granted legal status to thousands of his clients, when such adjustments were unwarranted and otherwise would not have been made.

The U.S. government has identified at least 25,000 immigration applications submitted by the David Firm – the vast majority of which have been determined to contain false, fraudulent and fictitious information.

In furtherance of the scheme, David and his employees recruited many people to participate in the scheme. This included dozens of individuals who, in exchange for payment, agreed to falsely represent to DOL that they were sponsoring aliens for employment. For example, they hired a corrupt accountant who created fake tax returns for the fictitious sponsor companies along with a corrupt DOL employee who helped ensure that DOL certifications were granted based upon the fraudulent applications.

David continued to operate the scheme even after he was suspended from the practice of law in New York State in March 2004.

He fled to Canada in 2006 after learning that his firm was under federal criminal investigation. However, illicit profits from the scheme continued to be funneled to him in Canada, including through a bank account in the name of a biblical treatise he had authored titled, "Code of the Heart." The David Firm ceased operations in early 2009, when federal search warrants were executed at several locations associated with the firm.

To date, a total of 26 individuals have been charged with participating in the scheme. Twenty-four defendants have been convicted, and two – Ali Gomaa and Sariel Sabale – remain fugitives.

David is the twelfth defendant to be sentenced. A judge also ordered him to forfeit $2.5 million and to pay a $200 special assessment.