On August 27th 2013 the Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs released a statement that Three Missourians were sentenced to prisons terms for Defrauding consumers seeking immigration services.
The defendants were sentenced in federal court in connection with an immigration fraud schemed. They formerly worked at Immigration Forms and Publication (IFP), a Sedalia, MO company. IFP falsely stated to consumers the they were affiliated with the federal government and that their sales
representatives were immigration agents. The fees paid to IFP covered filing fees for immigration documents, and that IFP could speed up the application process. The three defendants plead guilty to wire and mail fraud charges.
US District Judge Brian C. Wimes sentenced, Elizabeth Meredith to one year and day in prison, Thomas Laurence, 31 to 130 months in prison and Thomas Strawbridge 50 to 82 months in prison. The court found that the defendants caused customers to lose a total of more the $400,000. The defendants were order to pay $613,969 in restitution to the victims in addition to the prison time.
“Immigrants who come to this country and try to play by the rules deserve fair treatment under the law – not to be bilked out of their hard-earned savings by those looking for a quick buck,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are pleased to have worked with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice the leaders of this fraudulent operation.”
“This company exploited more than a thousand law-abiding immigrants by selling them government forms that anyone can obtain for free,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson. “They preyed on legal immigrants who were doing their best to follow the law, and they are being held accountable for their fraud and deceit.”
Court documents show that Strawbridge founded and owned IFP and operated the business in 2009 and 2010. The company sold USCIS immigration forms that are available for free to immigrants using fraudulent means. In addition IFP reps falsely claimed that they handled excess call volume for USCIS. IFP falsely told consumers that the Company employed paralegals would could help customers correctly fill out immigration forms and forms purchased though IFP would be more quickly processed then if they dealt directly with USCIS.
Consumers were falsely told that IFP fees would include government processing charges. The IFP representatives concealed that the government would charge processing fees that the customer would be responsible for. A high number of customers had complained and requested refunds and this fact was also concealed by IFP employees. IFP employees had no expertise in immigration matters.
For information on avoiding immigration services fraud, go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website: www.uscis.gov/avoidscams.