A New York immigration lawyer has been charged with others in an alleged scheme to obtain illegal visas by submitting fraudulent diplomas in respect of advanced degrees that were not obtained, from schools they did not attend.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Cheryl Garcia, Special Agent-in-Charge of the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (“DOL-OIG”) and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); announced today federal charges against RICHARD KASSEL, an immigration lawyer, and three others, in a scheme to obtain immigration visas by submitting fraudulent diplomas and transcripts representing that aliens had earned advanced degrees that they did not obtain from schools they did not attend.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, the defendants, including attorney Richard Kassel, cheated the system by engaging in a scheme to forge fraudulent diplomas and transcripts in order to obtain employment-based visas intended for professionals who had legitimately earned advanced degrees. Work visas must be earned not churned out if the system is to be valid and secure.”
As alleged in an indictment (the “Indictment”) unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, KASSEL created a scheme to obtain employment-based visas for immigration clients in exchange for a fee by pretending that these individuals possessed advanced degrees that they never earned. To perpetrate the scheme, KASSEL and ROSANNA ALMONTE, an assistant working for KASSEL, prepared and submitted fraudulent visa applications supported by fictitious diplomas and fake transcripts. JANA HALODA and VACLAV HALODA, both originally clients of KASSEL, facilitated the fraud by creating the fraudulent diplomas and supporting documents on a home computer and printer. More than a hundred fraudulent visa applications supported by these forged documents were submitted between 2008 and the present.
KASSEL (50), ALMONTE (26), JANA HALODA (32), and VACLAV HALODA (37) are all charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and five substantive counts of visa fraud. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of five years of imprisonment on the conspiracy charge and ten years imprisonment on each of the five counts of immigration fraud. The defendants also face a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense for each count. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General. He added that the investigation is ongoing.
The Office’s General Crimes Unit is overseeing the case. Assistant United States Attorney Andrea M. Griswold is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.