Phony immigration attorney filed more than 215 fraudulent asylum applications
TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is looking for additional victims of a Tampa area man charged Monday with a 25-count indictment including eight counts of mail fraud, eight counts of making false statements in immigration documents, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft. This case was investigated by HSI, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the indictment, Elvis Harold Reyes, 56, of Brandon, owned and operated EHR Ministries Inc., and portrayed himself as an immigration attorney, pastor, accountant, immigration expert, former immigration official and former federal law enforcement officer. Reyes is not and has never been a licensed attorney. Reyes targeted undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries who were seeking Florida driver licenses and work authorization. He gave false, inaccurate and incomplete legal and immigration advice to victims in order to induce them to retain his services and those of EHR Ministries.
Any person who was, or knows of someone who may have been, a possible victim is urged to contact the Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or http://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
Victims retained and paid Reyes to represent them in immigration-related matters before USCIS and other agencies. Reyes allegedly filed fraudulent immigration applications in the victims’ names, seeking asylum relief and withholding-of-removal protections provided for under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In doing so, Reyes falsified answers to questions in the asylum applications—fabricating stories about threats, persecution, and the applicants’ fear of returning to their native countries. Reyes did not inform the victims of the answers that he had provided on their behalf. He also did not inform the victims about the legal, administrative, and other immigration-related consequences that might follow from filing for asylum relief or for Convention Against Torture protection.
If convicted, Reyes faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count of mail fraud, up to 15 years’ imprisonment for each false statement count, and a mandatory, consecutive term of two years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft counts.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank Murray, with United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez Middle District Florida office.