Immigration attorney Gnoleba Seri was recently arrested on counts of fraud and aggravated identity theft. Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Timothy Houghton, Acting District Director of the New York District of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the arrest on Jan 14. Seri was arrested by HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) in Brooklyn, NY, and was brought before Hon. James C. Francis IV.
“Gnoleba Seri allegedly used his legal knowledge to circumvent the law and forge documents that are critical to obtaining an immigrant visa. The strength of the United States’ immigration system rests on the integrity of its process, and this office and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable those who undermine that process,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
“We are proud to stand by our partners today to send a message that U.S. immigration fraud will not be tolerated. We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” commented Acting District Director Timothy Houghton.
Acting Special-Agent-in-Charge Glenn Sorge went on to say: “Gnoleba Seri allegedly abused the special trust bestowed upon him as an immigration attorney to commit fraud and identity theft. When individuals falsify immigration documents, the system is severely undermined and the security of our nation is put at risk. HSI is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to ensure fraudsters are identified and brought to justice.”
The complaint that was unsealed in federal court stated:
Between October 2012 and April 2015, GNOLEBA SERI, a licensed immigration attorney working in New York, New York, and Brooklyn, New York, engaged in a scheme to use personal information contained in legitimate immigration documents for fraudulent purposes. In his role as an immigration attorney, SERI submitted falsified and forged I-864 Forms (affidavits of support for those seeking immigrant visas) in support of his clients’ applications for immigration visas and for legal permanent resident status. Specifically, SERI received legitimate I-864 Forms, tax information, pay stubs, and W-2 forms from individuals sponsoring his clients, and then fraudulently submitted these documents in applications for other clients. That is, SERI submitted I-846 Forms that listed individuals as financial sponsors who had never met the people they were purportedly agreeing to sponsor. Those I-846 Forms included the sponsors’ real names, identifying information, and financial information, as well as forged signatures. These fraudulent and forged I-864 Forms all listed SERI as the preparer, and many of them were notarized by him.
Attorney Gnoleba Seri, of Brooklyn, is charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of two years; one count of visa fraud, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and finally one count of mail fraud which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.