Immigration services company pleads guilty in visa fraud conspiracy

GREENBELT, Md. - EBI, Inc., which provided immigration-related services primarily to the Korean and Chinese communities in the United States, Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China, pleaded guilty today to immigration fraud, in connection with a scheme to submit false labor certifications in order to obtain visas for aliens, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to the plea agreement, Overseas Employment Information Service, Inc., doing business as EBI, Inc. (EBI), maintained an office in Silver Spring, Md., throughout the 1990's and at least until Sept. 22, 2004. From November 2001 through at least September 22, 2004, EBI maintained another office in Los Angeles, Calif.

From September 1999 through September 2004, EBI advertised itself as an employment services company that paired U.S. companies facing labor shortages, such as poultry processing and textile manufacturing companies, with immigrant workers seeking an opportunity to gain legal permanent residency in the United States. Within the Korean and Chinese communities in the U.S. and overseas, EBI was known for its ability to help individuals seeking to gain legal permanent residency in the U.S. quickly and efficiently.

Beginning in 1999, EBI conspired to file labor certification applications that contained false information to assist aliens in getting "green cards" through an employment-based visa program. The program permits an employer to sponsor an alient for employment in the United States if the employer has been unable to find qualified U.S. workers to fill the position. Once the labor certification is approved, the prospective employer could seek to substitute the beneficiary of the approved Labor Certification with another alien and the substitute beneficiary retains the visa priority date of the original beneficiary.

EBI filed applications with the Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that bore the names, identifying information, and the purported signatures of former EBI clients who had already obtained either their lawful permanent resident status or citizenship, and therefore had no need for a new labor certification application. These former clients were not aware that their names and identifying information were being used on new applications submitted by EBI, did not intend to work at the company listed on the application, and did not give permission to EBI or anyone associated with EBI to file those applications. When they first retained the services of EBI, these former clients were instructed to sign six application forms, but to leave the date blank. In some cases where the client indicated the date of signature on the form, the date was later obliterated and altered to include the date of the filing. In some instances, the labor certification applications bore the forged signatures of aliens who previously had obtained their LPR or citizenship status.

These approved labor certifications would be used as the basis for substitution of other aliens in the visa petition process. This served to shortcut the system and significantly reduced the waiting period for the substitute beneficiaries. EBI filed at least 25 such documents with the Department of Labor and USCIS during the course of this conspiracy and charged immigrants $30,000 to $50,000 for their services because of the relatively quick turnaround time.

"We will not allow criminal organizations to exploit and compromise America's immigration system for profit, said James Dinkins ICE Special Agent in Charge Baltimore Office of Investigations." In this case EBI used their expertise in immigration law not for the greater good, but to undermine the system and enrich themselves. These actions display a callous disregard for individuals who are attempting to lawfully enter the United States. ICE will continue to target these violators and pursue their prosecution.

"Today's guilty plea serves as a warning to employment broker companies that would submit fraudulent labor certifications to facilitate the unlawful entry of foreign workers into the United States for financial gain," said Gordon Heddell, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor, "Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate those who abuse the foreign labor certification programs."

EBI faces a maximum sentence of a fine consisting of the greater of $500,000 or twice the amount of the gross gain to the defendant and five years probation. As part of the plea agreement: EBI has agreed to forfeit a total of $300,000 seized from it's Los Angeles Office and held by a co-conspirator; and the government and EBI have agreed that a $500,000 fine and five years probation is an appropriate sentence in this case. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for July 11, 2008, at 9:30 a.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Chan Park and David Salem, who are prosecuting the case.

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