A fake immigration attorney has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a fraud scheme in which phony employment visas and other bogus documents were created for foreign nationals.
Those foreign nationals were seeking a way to remain in the United States legally, according to court documents filed Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Alexander Smirnoff, who also went by the name “Alex Scott,” was among three defendants charged in October in a 16-count indictment alleging conspiracy, visa fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and identification fraud.
Smirnoff, 49, of Corona, will plead guilty to one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on a date to be determined, according to his plea agreement, filed in Los Angeles federal court. The identity theft count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years behind bars.
Prosecutors allege Smirnoff and his co-defendants told prospective clients they operated a consulting firm called ABC Flex, which purported to offer “legal support” to foreign nationals wanting to obtain immigration benefits that would enable them to stay in the United States.
For fees as high as $8,000, the services offered by the defendants included creating phony employment visas, which they told clients were genuine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators determined that the recipients of those “visas,” many of whom originally came to the U.S. as students, did not realize the documentation was fake until immigration agents contacted them for overstaying their original expired student visas, prosecutors said.
In one instance, a foreign national ABC Flex client did not become aware her documentation was forged until she was denied entry upon returning to the U.S. from a trip to Nepal to teach English. She told investigators she frantically contacted the defendants, who said they would remedy the situation, but then stopped responding to her inquiries, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme, the defendants furnished their foreign national clients with forged letters purportedly issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and I-94 Arrival/Departure Records that falsely appeared to give the recipients permission to remain in the U.S. legally. The documents bore the Department of Homeland Security seal and appeared to be on official USCIS letterhead.
Additionally, the indictment alleges the defendants provided some of their clients with what they purported were valid Social Security numbers, when in fact the numbers either belonged to someone else or were invalid.
Investigators have located and interviewed about a dozen individuals who sought immigration services from the defendants, but authorities believe there may be more than 100 still unidentified, unwitting victims, according to court documents.
Court papers show that co-defendant Ekaterina Vladimirovna Zamurueva, 28, has agreed to plead guilty to a wire fraud count. The third defendant, Anna Kirillovna Solodovnikova, 29, has not yet come to an agreement with prosecutors.
–City News Service
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