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May 15, 2019Erie, PA, United StatesDocument and Benefit Fraud

Pennsylvania college official sentenced for visa fraud, making false statements

ERIE, Pa. — On Wednesday, May 15, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, announced that a resident of Erie, Pennsylvania man, has been sentenced in federal court for visa fraud and false statements, following an following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia and U.S. Border Patrol. 

Daniel Cabanillas, 49, was sentenced in federal court to 2 years’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

According to information presented to the court, Cabanillas was the Designated School Official (DSO) for the Student Exchange Visitor Program at Mercyhurst University until he was terminated on February 19, 2015. According to information provided to the court, while Cabanillas was employed as the DSO, he knowingly made materially false statements on various Form I-20, Certificates of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, subscribing to as true, the false certification of a person’s acceptance status at the university. A false Form I-20 was then used by an individual to obtain a student visa, which allowed entry into the United States. The court was advised that Cabinallas falsified acceptance documents for dozens of other students in connection with his work as the DSO.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady stated, "The Student Exchange and Visitor Program relies on the honesty and integrity of Designated School Officials to truthfully certify to the information contained in Visa application documents, and when DSO’s provide or certify false information, our system of lawful immigration into the United States for educational purposes is frustrated."

"This investigation is an example of how those that abuse the immigration process will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Mr. Cabanillas, while serving in his capacity as a designated school official at Mercyhurst University, abused his authority and undermined the integrity of the international student visa process." said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "I would like to thank U.S. Attorney Scott Brady for his collaboration in the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Cabanillas and for his ongoing commitment to aggressively pursue those individuals that exploit the immigration process."

Assistant United States Attorney Marshall J. Piccinini prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

Updated: 10/08/2020