CARSON CITY, Nev. - Three employees of a Reno-based immigration consulting firm were arrested Friday on state criminal charges following an investigation by the Nevada Attorney General's Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into allegations they orchestrated a multi-state scam that included impersonating employees of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The defendants, who worked for a company called Telestaffing, located at 610 Plumb Lane, allegedly told clients they were USCIS employees and could assist them with obtaining and completing immigration forms and filing them with USCIS. The group used a fee schedule identical to the fees posted by USCIS. However, because Telestaffing failed to file many of those forms in a timely fashion, some of the company's clients actually lost their legal immigration status.
The defendants - Charles Doucette, Deborah Stilson and Cybil Duran Berti - are charged with six counts of obtaining money under false pretenses in the course of a technological crime; six counts of conspiracy; and two counts of criminal racketeering.
"These egregious actions by scammers who impersonated federal employees and preyed on innocent people who were trying to work within the system to achieve citizenship is particularly distressing," said Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
"The original reports that led to this investigation and today's arrests were called in by concerned citizens to ICE's toll-free tip line," said John Budrewicz, acting resident agent in charge for U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations in Reno. "As is so often the case, the people who ended up being victimized by these defendants were trying to do the right thing and abide by the law. Instead, they ended up being duped. This enforcement action should send a message about our collective resolve to seek justice for those who prey on the well intentioned and the vulnerable."
Telestaffing, which was doing business under several names including - Immigration Forms; Immigration Forms Processing Center; Immigration Forms and Services; Immigration Forms and Documents; USA-Helpline.Info; and Immigration Helpline - duplicated electronic checks for its services without authority, resulting in a double payment for the filing. In some cases, Telestaffing clients who paid by money order or other means found the defendants either refused to file the benefit forms with USCIS or did nothing and kept the money.
Additional agencies that provided assistance with the investigation include the Better Business Bureau of Northern Nevada; the Washoe County Sheriff's Department; the City of Reno; the Reno Police Department; the Colorado Attorney General; the Missouri Attorney General; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Federal Trade Commission; and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The filing of a criminal complaint or arrest is not a determination of guilt or innocence, but is a finding of probable cause by the Nevada Attorney General that a crime was committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.