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Immigration Lawyer Jailed for 18 Months for Long Running Visa Scheme

            SANTA ANA, California – A Laguna Beach lawyer was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for submitting dozens of fraudulent visa petitions to U.S. immigration authorities and for failing to report her illicit funds to the IRS.

            Mihae Park, 54, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who scheduled a March 6 hearing on the amount of restitution to be paid.

Park pleaded guilty on May 16 to a two-count information charging her with visa fraud and filing a false tax return.

            Between 2000 and 2017, Park submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) more than 200 immigrant and non-immigrant work visa petitions that had false information. The petitions sought visas for foreign nationals based on false claims that they were going to work in highly skilled or executive positions at various businesses, when, in reality, they would not be employed by those companies, or they worked in low-level positions for which a visa would not be available. Among other false information contained in the visa petitions, Park claimed that she was employed by the petitioners under the alias Michelle Park, stated the businesses had employees who were actually deceased or retired people, listed the same people as employees at multiple petitioners, used bogus Social Security numbers for employees of petitioners, and submitted fake tax returns for work visa petitioners.

            The charging information cited two particular examples of Park’s visa fraud that occurred in 2013, when she submitted two fictitious petitions on behalf of an Orange County educational company. The petitions were submitted for two people she claimed would work there, respectively, as a Chinese language teacher and as a music instructor. In reality, the company did not know or hire the two work visa beneficiaries, and the company did not offer classes in Chinese language or music.

            “The crux of [Park’s] fraud was that she submitted petitions on behalf of entities without their knowledge, for the benefit of individuals who were not their employees, and disclosed none of that to CIS,” prosecutors wrote in the government’s sentencing papers.

Park also admitted filing false tax returns for the years 2009 through 2014 by failing to report receipts totaling $763,418 for this time period. As a result of her underreporting of her business income, Park admitted in her plea agreement that she owes the IRS $266,988 in unpaid federal income tax over this six-year period.

The government seized $292,482 that Park received for the filing of fraudulent visa petitions, and also seized a 2012 Ferrari California and a 2015 Volkswagen GTI that Park purchased with the visa fraud proceeds.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lawrence E. Kole of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Brent A. Whittlesey of the Asset Forfeiture Section.

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