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ICE arrests five for tricky visa scam

Austin, TX

Federal agents arrested five people for running an H-2B visa scam that had preyed on local businesses and illegal immigrants in Central Texas and Mexico for the last seven years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) said it had arrested five individuals in Austin, TX, on May 12 in connection with an H-2B visa fraud scam that tapped unknowing local businesses.

According to the charges against them, the defendants began approaching Austin area businesses as far back as 2004 offering to obtain H-2B visas for foreign nationals to work for their companies, or for illegal aliens already working in their companies, according to HSI.

Unbeknownst to the employers, the defendants then submitted fraudulent I-129 petitions with forged signatures or bogus supporting documentation requesting significantly more foreign workers than required or requested by employers, said the agency.  I-129 petitions are for temporary, non-migrant alien work visas.

The defendants then sold the excess the I-129 petitions to other illegal aliens in the Austin area for $1,500 to $2,200 per person, it said. Authorities also allege the defendants traveled to Mexico to help illegal aliens prepare and submit immigration forms, coach them as to what to say when interviewed by U.S. Consulate officials, and collect final payments from them.

All five were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and conspiracy to encourage aliens to illegally enter and reside in the United States.

The operation was a family affair of sorts. Those arrested included Jose Ramiro Vicharelly, 54 who was president and executive director of International Staffing Solutions Inc. (which also did business as Texas Staffing Resources); Irma Lopez Vicharelly; Jose’s daughter Angela Paola Faulk, 32; Angela’s husband Servando Gonzalez Jr., 25; and Pedro Saul Ocampo Mungia, 43, former TSR account manager.

ICE HSI agents executed the arrest warrants on May 10 and the suspects were later charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, and conspiracy to encourage aliens to illegally enter and reside in the United States. Jose and Irma Vicharelly, Angela Faulk, and Pedro Ocampo Munguia are facing additional charges for encouraging an alien to illegally enter and reside in the United States for purposes of financial gain, according to HSI.

In addition to the charges, the court is seeking a $1 million monetary judgment; forfeiture of the U.S. currency located in three bank accounts and several vehicles believed to have been purchased with proceeds derived from the alleged criminal activity.


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