Immigration Law

Florida man sentenced to federal prison after posing as immigration attorney

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A Florida man who posed as an immigration attorney has been sentenced to 20 years and nine months in federal prison.

In December, Elvis Harold Reyes, 56, of Brandon, Florida, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with filing more than 225 fraudulent asylum applications and collecting more than $411,000 from unknowing clients, according to an April 12 statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

The New York Times, the Associated Press and the Washington Post have coverage.

Reyes operated EHR Ministries Inc. in Brandon, Florida, and even though he portrayed himself as an immigration attorney, he has never been licensed, according to court documents. He targeted undocumented immigrants who were seeking driver’s licenses and work authorization and provided them with false and inaccurate legal advice to persuade them to retain his services.

He represented victims in matters before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and sought for them asylum relief and withholding-of-removal protections that are provided under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He falsified information in their asylum applications, did not share that information with them, and also did not inform them of the consequences of filing for asylum relief or for Convention Against Torture protection.

“This criminal defrauded hundreds of victims who thought they were starting a path to legal citizenship,” Homeland Security Investigations Tampa Assistant Special in Charge Michael Cochran said in the statement. “Identity and benefit fraud are crimes that threaten the national security and public safety of the U.S. by creating vulnerabilities to our legal immigration system.”

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Reyes spent the money that he charged his victims on travel, luxury shopping, spa visits and jewelry, as well as on an allowance for his girlfriend. He also threatened those who confronted him by claiming that he could have them deported.

The Washington Post reports that, according to court documents, at least six of Reyes’ victims have been deported, and six others received removal-in-absentia orders. Another client is married to a U.S. citizen and may not be able to obtain legal status because of his fraud.

Senior U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington of the Middle District of Florida handed down Reyes’ sentence Monday.

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