fraud

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Berkley Students Planning Fraudulent Course to Circument ICE Rules, Avoid Deportation

Hundreds of students at the University of California -- Berkeley are privately discussing a plan to create a "dummy" course solely to help international students on F-1 student visas avoid deportation under new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (ICE) regulations -- and they say at least one faculty member is on board, Fox News has learned. . .

Seattle Requests Coronavirus Relief Funds for Illegal Immigrants in Seattle

 

Seattle Requests Coronavirus Relief Funds for Illegal Immigrants in Washington
 

While the Left continues to claim the illegal immigrant population does not place a financial burden on the American taxpayers, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution this week asking Governor Jay Inslee to create a $100 million “relief fund” for illegal immigrants who were ineligible to receive a coronavirus relief check from the federal government.. . 

 

ICE: Operation Stolen Promise

 

 

COVID-19 has brought much of the world to a halt, while social distancing and other preventive measures have become the new normal for society. The disease is currently affecting approximately 195 countries around the world. Despite the danger and uncertainty this global pandemic has caused, individuals and organizations around the world are attempting to take advantage of it for illicit financial gain. These illegal efforts not only compromise legitimate trade and financial systems, but threaten the integrity of the U.S. border, and endanger the safety and security of the American public.

With its expansive authorities, robust cyber capabilities, and strategic partnerships worldwide, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is uniquely positioned to combat the efforts of perpetrators who violate the laws of the United States to further COVID-19-related criminal activity. . .

 

ICE HSI El Paso investigating COVID-19-related fraud, such as unauthorized test kits, face masks, diluted cleaning solutions, anti-viral products

EL PASO, Texas – Criminal organizations continue to try to smuggle fraudulent, mislabeled, and unauthorized COVID-19 related products, such as purported anti-viral products, personal protective equipment (PPE), and test kits across the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are collaborating with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP), and other law enforcement partners, to seize this merchandise, investigate the schemes, and warn the public of the health and safety risks involved in buying and using these fraudulent and tampered products. . .

Birthright Tourism

Birth tourism is a term which refers to the practice of foreign mothers-to-be traveling to the United States on tourist visas for the specific purpose of giving birth in the U.S. in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their child. The secondary goal of the mother may be to eventually secure legal permanent resident status, also colloquially known as a “green card.” . . .

Big! States can prosecute illegal aliens for identity theft

It’s hard to believe we needed a court case, that had to go to the Supreme Court, to allow state prosecution of illegal aliens who steal identities. But, we did.

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that state governments can prosecute illegal aliens of identity theft, including aliens who use false Social Security numbers to unlawfully gain employment. . .

Administration looks to end birthright tourism

On January 21st, the Trump administration announced it would begin cracking down on the practice of birth tourism. A newly published rule directs consular employees at the State Department to deny tourist visas to pregnant women who have no legitimate reason for visiting the United States other than to give birth. 

Birth tourism is a booming underground industry in the United States due to our current interpretation of birthright citizenship. Federal agents arrested three people last year in California for operating a multimillion-dollar birth tourism business. These businesses draw foreign nationals to the United States in order to procure U.S. citizenship for their unborn children. Citizen children can sponsor their parents for a green card when they turn 21. . .

Southern Poverty Law Center fires co-founder Morris Dees

The Southern Poverty Law Center fired Morris Dees, the nonprofit civil rights organization's co-founder and former chief litigator.

SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement Dees' dismissal over his misconduct was effective on Wednesday, March 13....

"As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world," Cohen said in the emailed statement. "When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action."

Dees, 82, co-founded the Montgomery-based organization in 1971. 

"It was not my decision, what they did," Dees said when reached by phone. "I wish the center the absolute best. Whatever reasons they had of theirs, I don't know."...

Dees' termination is one of several steps taken by the organization this week, Cohen said. 

"Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve — one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected," Cohen said. 

What the SPLC wants the "next steps" to address or correct remains unclear. An SPLC spokesperson said the organization was "in the process of hiring" the firm for the workplace climate assessment, and no other leadership changes had been announced. 

A message seeking further comment was left on Cohen’s cell phone Thursday afternoon.

"I’ve read the statement they issued," Dees said when asked if he knew why he was fired. "I feel like some of the things in the statement were unfortunate. But I refuse to say anything negative about the center or its employees. I’ll let my life’s work and reputation speak for itself."

When asked if he was offered the chance to resign or retire, the 82-year-old said, "I've told you all I can tell you."

Dees' biography appeared scrubbed from the SPLC's website as news broke of his termination on Thursday afternoon. 

Morris Dees, SPLC funding and civil rights cases

A Montgomery native, Dees attended Sidney Lanier High School. He burnished his marketing chops by managing a direct sale book publishing company while attending the University of Alabama, where he also earned a law degree. 

After returning home to establish a law practice in 1960, Dees won a series of civil rights cases before establishing the SPLC with lawyer Joseph J. Levin Jr. and civil rights activist Julian Bond a decade later.

Southern Poverty Law Center President Emeritus Julian Bond, left, and founder Morris Dees at the SPLC's 40th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday April 30, 2011 at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Ala.(Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh) (Photo: Montgomery Advertiser)

The legal partnership netted significant civil rights triumphs. Dees challenged systemic discrimination and segregation in Alabama state trooper ranks in a case won in the U.S. Supreme Court. SPLC litigation challenging Alabama's legislative districts forced the state to redraw its districts in the early 1970s, leading to the election of more than a dozen black legislators in 1974.

Morris Dees is a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery.

Early SPLC lawsuits also fought for better conditions for cotton mill workers in Kentucky, women in the workplace and poor defendants on death row. The organization bankrupted a Ku Klux Klan Organization, the United Klans of America, in a 1987 civil case. 

Dees has been a fixture in politics since the group's ascension, though his organization has faced scrutiny in the past.

A 1994 Montgomery Advertiser series provided a deep look into the organization controlled by the multimillionaire Dees, illustrating his near-singular control over the organization and its mammoth budget.

The series, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, revealed a figure seen as heroic by some and single-minded by others. Dees' critics said he was more concerned with fundraising than litigating. 

The series also alleged discriminatory treatment of black employees within the advocacy group, despite its outward efforts to improve the treatment of minorities in the country. Staffers at the time “accused Morris Dees, the center’s driving force, of being a racist and black employees have ‘felt threatened and banded together.’” The organization denied the accusations raised in the series.

"I would hope the IRS and the Justice Department would take this as [an] opportunity to come in and take a close look at The Center, it's finances and it's day-to-day operations," said Jim Tharpe, managing editor of the Advertiser in the mid-1990s, who oversaw the Advertiser series. "It's long overdue."

Dees' central role in the organization has also led to numerous threats against him, and the Advertiser previously reported that he has 24-hour protection at his home.

SPLC a war chest of funds that dwarfs over NAACP and Equal Justice Initiative

Over the years, the SPLC has continued to amass massive funds from donors amid differing levels of scrutiny. The nonprofit has hundreds of employees and offices in four states. The organization had nearly $450 million in net assets, according to publicly available tax documents filed for 2017.

That figure easily dwarfs other civil rights groups — such as the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP — during the same time frame. The Montgomery-based EJI had about $57 million in net assets at that time and the NAACP had about $3.8 million.

SPLC still fell behind other groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union, which pulled in more than $526 million between its main nonprofit and foundation in 2017 filings, with several local groups collecting additional millions of dollars not included in that figure.

In recent years, the organization has become nationally known and scrutinized for its Hatewatch work tracking the rise of hate groups, particularly white supremacists.

It produces research and advocacy work on a variety of topics, including payday lending, civil asset forfeiture and immigration rights. The SPLC also continues day-to-day civil rights litigation, including an ongoing lawsuit to address prison conditions in Alabama.

“The SPLC is deeply committed to having a workplace that reflects the values it espouses — truth, justice, equity and inclusion, and we believe the steps we have taken today reaffirm that commitment," Cohen said.

Brian Lyman contributed to this report.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown at 334-240-0132 or mabrown@gannett.com.

 

Feds: Forgery operation produced over 10,000 fake documents

SALEM, Ore.-  Located in an apartment in a primarily Hispanic town in Oregoon, a clandestine lab churned out thousands of fake Social Security cards, drivers' licenses and immigration documents that were sold around the United States for years.

The operation, revealed for the first time Tuesday in a federal court document, showed that a syndicate based in Oaxaca, Mexico, operated the forged-document factory in Woodburn, a town of 24,000 in an agricultural region a half-hour's drive from Portland.

Employers, including farms, nurseries and wineries, routinely employ people who are in the United States illegally but who can produce a Social Security card or work visa. Many agricultural employers say it's not their responsibility - and that they lack the expertise - to determineine if the documents are genuine.

The arrest on Sept. 21, 2017, of Miguel Merecias-Lopez in a fast-food restaurant parking lot in Woodburn reveals how, in many cases, such documents are produced. Merecias-Lopez pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Portland to conspiracy to produce false identification documents and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He had gone to the parking lot to sell more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meth, prosecutors said.

Homeland Security Investigations had already been looking at the syndicate they called the "Fraud Doc Ring" before the arrest, said Kevin Sonoff, spokesman for the United States Attorney's Office in Portland. After Merecias-Lopez was arrested, investigators went to his apartment and found computers, scanners, laminators, cameras and a high-resolution printer.

"The fraud ring operated in Woodburn for more than a decade and produced over 10,000 fraudulent documents that they distributed in Woodburn or mailed to customers around the United States," U.S. Attorney Billy Williams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Sax said in the plea agreement posted Tuesday in court documents. Previous detailed court documents remain under seal.

The Fraud Doc Ring communicated with customers using Facebook, email, Snapchat and in person, the plea deal states. Customers emailed, texted or mailed the ring digital passport-style photos for insertion into the fake ID cards, or visited a clandestine photography lab in Woodburn where their photos were taken, the plea agreement says. Customers paid electronically through PayPal, through the mail or in person.

In the apartment, agents found dozens of security images and seals used in legitimate identification documents. They also found stored digital photos of more than 4,000 customers.

The Fraud Doc Ring produced a wide array of documents, including drivers' licenses for over 25 different states, Social Security cards, lawful permanent resident cards, U.S. and Mexican birth certificates and marriage licenses.

There is a huge market for such documents. Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America's roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture. Many more work in the nation's hospitality, service and construction industries.

Merecias-Lopez's attorney, Brian Walker, did not immediately respond to emailed and phone messages requesting comment. Merecias-Lopez said in his petition to plead guilty that he has a 10th-grade education, and that he understands that conviction can lead to imprisonment and deportation.

Merecias-Lopez, 24, moved to Woodburn from Oaxaca in January 2017, long after the fraud ring began operating. He is responsible for creating at least 300 fraudulent U.S. government documents, according to the plea agreement.

Government prosecutors and Walker are jointly recommending a low sentence. For the false documents conviction, he faces a maximum 15 years in prison and $250,000 fine. The drug conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison with a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence and a $10 million fine.

Sonoff said no other arrests have been made and that the current criminal inquiry focuses only on Merecias-Lopez and his co-conspirators, not on their customers.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 18.

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