Lawyers Convicted Of Fabricating Asylum Stories
This bulletin consists of two parts:
(1) Comments on the continued abuse of Canada's refugee/asylum system.
(2) The article, “3 Lawyers, 2 Interpreters Convicted In Audacious Asylum Scam”, which appeared in The Sacramento Bee in California. The article states that 3 American lawyers were convicted of concocting evidence which resulted in 400 to 1000 asylum/refugee claimants being granted asylum in the U.S.
This bulletin has particular relevance in Canada at this time. As most Canadians know, close to 3000 Roma from the Czech Republic have, since late 2007, claimed asylum/refugee status in Canada. All of these people have arrived here because Canada naively stopped requiring Czech citizens to have a visa to enter Canada. To say the least, the stories that the Roma have told are highly suspect.
Most Canadians assume that the Roma were informed about the ease with which they could migrate to Canada, and are therefore not genuine refugees. Most Canadians also assume that the Roma have been “coached” in composing their stories.
The question most Canadians ask is this : Who in the Canadian immigration industry has done the “coaching”?
As many Canadians are aware, the Roma are the latest in a long list of groups who have abused Canada's refugee system. As early as 1992, former Liberal MP David Anderson, who had been a member of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, had personally listened to the tales of refugee claimants, and had characterized many of their stories as “perjury”. He continued, “…the underlying premise (of many Board decisions) is that if someone lied well enough to get here, then they'll do well.”
Why has obvious perjury and fraud which Mr. Anderson and many other IRB members witnessed never been attended to?
One of the clearest examples of contemporary fraud is the large number of refugee/asylum claimants from Mexico. For the last five+ years, Mexican citizens have ranked at the top of the list of refugee/asylum claimants in Canada. As many people have noted before, it is absurd that Canada should even be listening to refugee/asylum claims from citizens of Mexico and many other countries.
Many Canadians think that at this stage in our history, Canada should have declared a long list of countries that were “Safe” from political persecution. And it should have clearly stated that people from those countries would not be permitted to even begin the asylum/refugee claimant process.
As we have noted many times, all Canadians may not be aware that Canada's immigration industry has effectively sabotaged efforts to create such a list.
On behalf of many Canadians, we ask this question: If the immigration industry has done this, is it not possible that some of them, like their American counterparts, have also concocted audacious stories for asylum/refugee claimants? And if the latter is so, why have some of the immigration industry not been investigated, charged and convicted?
Once again, we repeat a very important point : there are serious, far-reaching economic and social consequences of continuing to allow the abuse of Canada's refugee/asylum system. False refugees who dupe our Immigration and Refugee Board have later become the sponsors of literally hundreds of thousands of people who have entered Canada through our Family Class system. In turn, the latter have later sponsored unknown thousands more to come here.
As most can see, a significant percentage of the immigrants who have arrived here in the past 20 years are here either directly or indirectly because of fraud.
Why has all of this abuse been allowed to continue for so long?
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney : The eyes of Canadians are turned to you.
3 lawyers, 2 interpreters convicted in audacious asylum scam
By Sam Stanton
The Sacramento Bee, June 27, 2009
Prosecutors said it was one of the most audacious immigration scams in the nation, one that resulted in hundreds of foreigners winning asylum in the United States by concocting phony claims that they were being persecuted in their homelands.
They came from India, Romania, Fiji and Nepal. And, the government said, they found three lawyers and two interpreters who helped them come up with phony documents, doctors' letters and affidavits designed to support their claims of ethnic, religious or political persecution.
On Thursday, after a complex three-month trial in federal court in Sacramento, a jury agreed that a massive fraud had been uncovered.
All five defendants were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government by filing false asylum claims, as well as numerous other charges. Some of the charges resulted in not-guilty verdicts, but federal officials said the jury agreed with the bulk of their case.
'I'm glad it's over; it was a long trial,' said lead prosecutor Benjamin Wagner. 'I think it's an important prosecution because of the importance of the asylum process, and the conduct of the defendants in this case really was a challenge to the integrity of that process.'
Wagner said the verdicts send 'a strong message to people who are going to litigate before this country's immigration authorities: It's a serious process, and you have to play by the rules.'
The case involved a law firm with offices in Sacramento and San Francisco that was run by brothers Jagprit Singh Sekhon, 39, and Jagdip Singh Sekhon, 42. A third attorney who worked with them, Manjit Kaur Rai, 33, and two interpreters also were charged.
The government said the five were involved in fraudulent activity from 2000 through 2004 that may have resulted in somewhere between 400 and 1,000 asylum seekers being allowed to remain in the United States after producing evidence that they would be harmed if returned to their native land.
During the trial, which was watched closely by immigration experts across the country, Wagner hammered at the defendants, saying they had engaged in 'an assembly-line fraud factory that turned out hundreds of false claims.'
Clients came to Sekhon & Sekhon from Washington, Arizona, Illinois and Michigan but claimed on paper to be residents of Northern California so they could remain within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco asylum office, prosecutors said.
The government contended that the defendants coached asylum seekers on how to answer questions and gave them phony stories to memorize for immigration officials, even though they were under oath.
Supporting documents said to have been notarized in India or Romania turned out to be counterfeit, with some created on a computer in Sacramento, the government said.
The investigation began after Mark Temple, an asylum officer in San Francisco who was familiar with Romania, noticed unusual similarities in claims the Sekhon firm had submitted for different asylum seekers.
Eventually, investigators sent an undercover Romanian informant to the Sekhons seeking immigrant status.
The informant told some of the defendants that he had not been persecuted in Romania, but they nonetheless filed a claim saying he repeatedly had been 'attacked, arrested and beaten unconscious by police due to his Baptist religion,' the government said.
The defense denied the claims, maintaining the defendants never falsified forms or coached clients to lie. Instead, they said, they simply briefed asylum seekers on what questions they might be asked and how best to answer.
But the jury wasn't buying much of the defense, and delivered its verdicts Thursday.
The three lawyers and two interpreters Iosif Caza, 43, and Luciana Harmath, 29 were convicted of the overarching charge of conspiracy to defraud immigration authorities by filing fraudulent claims. All but Jagdip Sekhon were convicted of a separate charge of conspiracy to submit a false asylum claim, and various other guilty verdicts also were rendered.
Defense attorney Tim Zindel, who represented Caza, said he planned to seek a new trial.
'We're disappointed by the verdict and we plan to appeal,' he said.
The defendants have been free on bail since being indicted in 2006 and face a hearing today on whether they may remain out of jail pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 16.
Wagner said each could face from two to five years in prison, although sentencing guidelines differ. The three lawyers also could lose the right to practice law. Rai and Harmath, who are not U.S. citizens, could be deported after serving their sentences.
Meanwhile, immigration authorities must decide whether to review the cases of hundreds of immigrants who were granted asylum through the scheme.
'Through the granting of asylum, this nation offers its protection to victims of ethnic, religious, and political persecution from across the world,' acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown said in a statement Thursday. 'These defendants made a living out of cynically abusing the asylum process.'