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25857: Hermantin(News)Boss held in migrant scam (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Thu, Jul. 28, 2005
Boss held in migrant scam
Federal agents seized the leader of a Lauderdale Lakes agency that they say
defrauded undocumented immigrants.
BY DARRAN SIMON AND ALFONSO CHARDY
Federal agents arrested the head of a Haitian community organization Wednesday
on charges that the agency made millions by filing fraudulent immigration
papers for undocumented immigrants.
Gomez Accime was taken into custody as he drove to the Lauderdale Lakes office
of Haitian-American Community Help Organization of South Florida -- called
Accime, the group's executive director, was indicted last week, according to
Mark Briesemeister, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. Accime faces charges including mail fraud and conspiracy
to commit mail fraud. He is scheduled to appear in court today..
The organization made more than $3 million from the service, according to ICE
HACHO workers filed more than 10,000 applications for work permits, known
officially as Employment Authorization Documents or EADs, and charged $450
apiece, according to ICE.
Most the applications were fraudulent and denied.
Had the immigrants themselves filed the applications with the U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services, they would have been charged $175.
HACHO listed the applicants as refugees, and the government waives the fee for
''Virtually all of that [money] went to HACHO,'' Briesemeister said.
The evidence was taken to a grand jury as a result of the investigation that
began last fall.
ICE agents searched the HACHO offices Wednesday in a strip mall at 4693 N.
State Road 7 in Lauderdale Lakes, Briesemeister said.
Sixteen immigrants found there, who had traveled from the New York area, were
taken into custody, Briesemeister said. The case is the first time federal
authorities have publicly acknowledged that HACHO has been under federal
investigation for the alleged fraud. Hints of an investigation arose earlier
when New York authorities contacted South Florida law enforcement officials
about the group.
Last fall, two New York agencies -- the Office of Citizenship Services in New
York Gov. George Pataki's office and New York State Consumer Protection Board
-- disclosed that they had opened probes into HACHO after receiving complaints
about excessive fees to file applications for work permits and other documents.
Officials also said immigrants claimed the group promised to make their
immigration status legal.
About 20 illegal immigrants living in New York complained to the Office of
Citizenship Services, saying they each paid $450 to HACHO for work permits, but
Last October, New York officials said immigrants claimed to have traveled to
Florida in the belief an amnesty for illegals was imminent and that HACHO could
further their chances of getting legalization.
Hundreds of immigrants from around the country were arriving daily at the HACHO
office based on rumors that they could get special services, according to ICE
Al Bonnie, the HACHO president and founder, told The Herald last year his
organization had done nothing wrong and that it did not promise amnesty or
special immigration assistance.
Bonnie said HACHO has helped people get food, money, driver licenses and green
Public records show the group was incorporated in 1998. ''We don't do anything
illegal, and if somebody is complaining we didn't serve them right, we will
take care of it, put them on top of the list,'' he said at the time.
An ICE investigator said it was ''bedlam'' outside the HACHO offices at one
point. The investigator added: ``The crowds were immense and the police had to