Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest Of New York Immigration Attorney For Immigration Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest Of New York Immigration Attorney For Immigration Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Glenn Sorge, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”), Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and Timothy Houghton, Acting District Director of the New York District of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), announced today the arrest of GNOLEBA SERI for immigration fraud and aggravated identity theft.  SERI was arrested today by HSI in Brooklyn, New York, and was presented this afternoon before the Honorable James C. Francis IV.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:  “Gnoleba Seri allegedly used his legal knowledge to circumvent the law and forge documents that are critical to obtaining an immigrant visa.  The strength of the United States’ immigration system rests on the integrity of its process, and this office and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable those who undermine that process.”

Special-Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez stated: “Gnoleba Seri allegedly abused the special trust bestowed upon him as an immigration attorney to commit fraud and identity theft.  When individuals falsify immigration documents, the system is severely undermined and the security of our nation is put at risk.  HSI is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to ensure fraudsters are identified and brought to justice.”

Acting District Director Timothy Houghton stated: “We are proud to stand by our partners today to send a message that U.S. immigration fraud will not be tolerated.  We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”

According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Between October 2012 and April 2015, GNOLEBA SERI, a licensed immigration attorney working in New York, New York, and Brooklyn, New York, engaged in a scheme to use personal information contained in legitimate immigration documents for fraudulent purposes.  In his role as an immigration attorney, SERI submitted falsified and forged I-864 Forms (affidavits of support for those seeking immigrant visas) in support of his clients’ applications for immigration visas and for legal permanent resident status.  Specifically, SERI received legitimate I-864 Forms, tax information, pay stubs, and W-2 forms from individuals sponsoring his clients, and then fraudulently submitted these documents in applications for other clients.  That is, SERI submitted I-846 Forms that listed individuals as financial sponsors who had never met the people they were purportedly agreeing to sponsor.  Those I-846 Forms included the sponsors’ real names, identifying information, and financial information, as well as forged signatures.  These fraudulent and forged I-864 Forms all listed SERI as the preparer, and many of them were notarized by him.

*                *                *

SERI, 49, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with one count of visa fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive minimum sentence of two years in prison; and one count of mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative efforts of law enforcement personnel at HSI and USCIS.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew D. Beaty is in charge of the prosecution.

The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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