After a jury convicted a family of three of fraud, money laundering, and other offenses, a judge in Queens, New York imposed prison sentences totalling 418 years for what he called “the most despicable gang of criminals to ever sit in front of me.” The family, consisting of Shane and Gomatee Rasmundar, ages 52 and 48, and their daughter Shantal, age 23, are immigrants from Trinidad who were accused of defrauding nineteen fellow immigrants out of almost $2 million in a series of scams involving phony real estate deals and promises to obtain various immigration benefits. Shane Rasmundar was sentenced to 235 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence, while his wife Gomatee got 153 years and Shantal got 30 years.
Shane Rasmundar would present himself as an agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with a fake ID card and badge and an air pistol to complete the disguise. He would approach fellow immigrants at Hindu temples in Queens and claim that, as a government agent, he could help them get certain immigration benefits outside of the usual processes. For a price, he said he could get green cards for them and have their names removed from government watch lists and deportation rosters. Gomatee was accused of assisting him by helping convince victims of his ability to help them as a federal agent. In all, prosecutors said that twelve victims paid the Rasmundars over $250,000 for immigration assistance. The Rasmundars had no affiliation with ICE, of course, and there is generally no way of circumventing the usual petitioning and application procedures to obtain a green card.
The other part of their scam operations involved fraudulent real estate transactions. Shane Rasmundar would tell victims that federal agents had an opportunity to purchase properties seized by the IRS and DEA before the properties were put up for public auction. He claimed he could help the victims buy these properties, supposedly located in Queens and Florida, and then help flip them for a profit. Some victims gave the Rasmundars money for both the immigration and real estate operations. They collected $1.5 million from ten people for fake real estate deals.
Criminal charges against the family included grand larceny, criminal impersonation, scheming to defraud, and money laundering. All three entered pleas of not guilty in 2010. The case went to trial, and a jury found them guilty in November 2011. All criminal charges were in New York state court. So far they apparently have not faced federal criminal charges for the immigration fraud.
Scams targeting immigrants are unfortunately quite common, particularly scams that promise some sort of shortcut around the usual process of applying for visas or green cards. There quite simply are no shortcuts. Even the occasional programs enacted by Congress to benefit a specific group of immigrants still require formal applications and filing fees. Immigrants and their advocates should take care to educate themselves about legitimate means of dealing with immigration, and how to recognize illegitimate ones.
The United States immigration system is often complicated and confusing. For a free and confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced Ohio immigration visa lawyer, contact Gus Shihab online or at (800) 625-3404 today.More Blog Posts
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Officials Launch Campaign to Raise Awareness of Immigration Scams, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 20, 2011
Ohio Business Investors Offer Help to Immigrants who Create Jobs, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, October 27, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Sunshine’ by yinance on stock.xchng.