Head Of Non-Profit Organization Sentenced To Over 17 Years’ Prison For Fraud

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, and SALVATORE DALESSANDRO, the
Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the
Department of Homeland Security’s United States Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced that MARIA MAXIMO, 54, was
sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 210 months in
prison on charges relating to schemes to defraud more than 2,000
immigrants by charging them between $500 and $2,500 to file
immigration applications that MAXIMO knew were baseless and would
ultimately be denied. The sentence was imposed by United States
District Judge LEWIS A. KAPLAN.

According to the felony Information to which MAXIMO
pleaded guilty, and other documents publicly filed in this case:
Between June 2004 and early 2005, MAXIMO, on behalf of
approximately 500 illegal immigrants, prepared applications to a
purported “work permit program” through which, MAXIMO claimed,
the immigrants would receive valid United States work permits.
MAXIMO charged $500 for the preparation of each of approximately
500 applications. MAXIMO advertised the “work permit program” in
part through flyers that indicated that almost any illegal
immigrant could get a work permit by submitting an application
with just a few basic biographical documents. United States
Citizenship and Information Services (“USCIS”) had no such “work
permit program” and offers employment authorization cards only to
immigrants who have visas allowing them to work in the United
States, or who are applying for immigration status which, if
granted, would allow them to work. As a result, USCIS denied the
approximately 500 invalid work permit applications submitted by

In another facet of the scheme, between May 2005 and
January 2006, MAXIMO charged approximately 1,800 people between
$500 and $2,500 for the preparation of applications to what she
promoted as a “legalization program” open to virtually any
illegal immigrant. MAXIMO claimed that through the “legalization
program” applicants could receive work permits and ultimately
green cards. There was no such “legalization program.” Instead,
MAXIMO filed applications for what is known as the LULAC program
(named after a lawsuit involving the League of United Latin
American Citizens), a limited amnesty program of which one of the
eligibility requirements is that applicants have resided in the
United States since at least January 1, 1982. Nevertheless,
MAXIMO told applicants who had resided in the United States for a
shorter period that they were eligible for a green card under the
LULAC program and submitted applications on their behalf. None
of these approximately 1,800 LULAC applications have been

At her sentencing today, MAXIMO was ordered to forfeit
$2 million in proceeds from the scheme, including nearly
$1,000,000 in accounts seized by the Government at the time of
her arrest on April 4, 2006. MAXIMO was also ordered to make
full restitution to her victims, in an amount that will be set by
the court at a later date.

MAXIMO pleaded guilty on March 16, 2007, to two counts
of mail fraud — one for the “work permit” scheme and one for the
“legalization” scheme. During her plea, MAXIMO admitted that she
knew some of the applicants did not qualify for the programs and
that she failed to tell the applicants that they did not qualify
but rather took their money and submitted their applications to

In imposing the sentence of 210 months in prison, Judge
KAPLAN stated that “this was a truly horrible crime,” and “one of
the greatest cons I’ve ever seen.” Noting that this is “a nation
of immigrants,” Judge KAPLAN commented on “the desperation about
coming to the United States and staying in the United States,”
and stated that MAXIMO “in the most cynical, cold-blooded,
vicious way took advantage of that desperation.”

Mr. GARCIA praised ICE for its work in the
investigation of this case. In addition, Mr. GARCIA thanked
USCIS, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the New York State
Police Department, and the New York Attorney General for their
assistance in this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN and
MARGARET GARNETT are in charge of the prosecution and Assistant
United States Attorney SEETHA RAMACHANDRAN is in charge of the
forfeiture proceedings.

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