Immigration Attorney Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Prison for Fraud Scheme and Identity Theft in Relation to Visa Applications
An Indianapolis, Indiana immigration attorney was recently sentenced to 75 months in prison for defrauding the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and more than 250 of his clients by filing fraudulent visa applications and reaping approximately $750,000 in illegitimate fees. Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Chicago made the announcement.
Joel Paul, 45, of Fishers, Indiana, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Magnus-Stinson sentenced Paul to serve three years of supervised release, and ordered that he pay up to $750,000 in restitution to his victims. In November 2017, Paul pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to submit fraudulent U-visa applications.
“Immigration fraud undermines not only the public’s faith in our institutions and the legal profession, it also jeopardizes public safety and compromises national security,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Attorneys who commit such egregious fraud on our legal system and their own clients will be held accountable.”
“Immigration fraud presents a serious threat to the national security of our country,” said Special Agent in Charge Gibbons. “Illegal schemes like this not only undermine the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system, but they create potential security vulnerabilities while also cheating deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve.”
As part of his plea agreement, Paul admitted that from 2013 to 2017, he submitted more than 250 false Applications for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant on behalf of his clients and without their knowledge. Those applications falsely asserted that Paul’s clients had been victims of a crime and had provided substantial assistance to law enforcement in investigating the crime. With approximately 200 of the false applications, Paul submitted unauthorized copies of a certification he had obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of Indiana in 2013, using the certification without the USAO’s knowledge to falsely claim that the applicant had provided substantial assistance in a criminal prosecution. In total, Paul charged his clients approximately $3,000 per application.
HSI investigated the case with the assistance of USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. Trial Attorneys Molly Gaston, Peter M. Nothstein and Amanda Vaughn of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case.