A Polish woman who orchestrated a long-running scheme to defraud dozens of immigrants seeking to become United States citizens by falsely promising them citizenship was sentenced today to 121 months in federal prison.
Elzbieta Malgorzata Bugajska, 52, of Los Angeles (Koreatown), was sentenced by United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson. Bugajska pleaded guilty on the eve of trial in June 2003 to eight counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, two counts of aiding and abetting the impersonation of a United States judge, seven counts of unlawfully transferring Social Security cards, five counts of using a false passport, one count of possessing a false naturalization certificate and one count of possessing false immigration documents.
Judge Wilson noted Bugajska’s two prior convictions for immigration fraud and called the defendant an “incorrigible” criminal, with an “insatiable need to commit crimes of this nature.” In addition to the prison term, Judge Wilson ordered Bugajska to pay $349,065 in restitution to victims.
Bugajska masterminded an elaborate scheme that promised immigrants a fast track to citizenship in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in fees. As part of the scam, Bugajska masqueraded as an immigration consultant named “Jerry Ann Mitchell.” The real Jerry Ann Mitchell died as an infant in 1943, but Bugajska
appropriated Mitchell’s identity and obtained a United States passport and California driver’s license in Mitchell’s name.
Bugajska told victims that she was a CIA officer and a retired federal judge who knew how to bypass the normal bureaucracy and naturalize people quickly. Bugajska obtained clients, most of whom were Filipino and Korean nationals, through various recruiters. To deceive the victims, Bugajska and her associates would administer citizenship tests, quizzing the would-be citizens on various aspects of United States history and politics.
On at least one occasion, Bugajska staged a bogus citizenship ceremony, during which a co-defendant posed as a federal judge in order to make the victims believe they were being sworn in as United States citizens. During the “ceremony,” the “judge” forgot a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance and had to be corrected by one of the immigrant-victims.
As part of the scheme, Bugajska fraudulently obtained genuine Social Security cards and numbers for the victims. An employee of the Social Security Administration for more than 15 years colluded with Bugajska to issue these illegal SSNs.
The scheme, which principally targeted Korean and Filipino immigrants, defrauded at least 67 victims, although investigators have been hampered from identifying more victims because Bugajska kept very few records.
Previously in this case, Bugajska’s three co-defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced. They are:
* John Patrick Bradley, 57, of Los Angeles (Pico-Union District), who posed as the judge and was sentenced in February to six months of home detention and was ordered to pay $46,550 in restitution;
* Yolanda Miel Lubiano, 62, of Sun Valley, a recruiter of Filipino victims, who was sentenced in December 2002 to two years of probation; and
* Lorena Velasquez Garcia, 39, of South Gate, the employee of the Social Security Administration, who was sentenced in September 2003 to two months in prison and two months of home detention.
* The successful prosecution of the four defendants is the result of an investigation dubbed Operation Charade. The investigation was conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now known as the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the Office of Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.