Here We Go Again: The Magic $25,000 Asian Immigration Ripoff
I have, in the past, told you about the terrible frustration my British partner and I suffered in the year preceding Hong Kong's return to the PRC, when we were doing our best to help Hong Kong businessmen interested in establishing L-1 and other business visa scenarios in the U.S. The game went like this: we would essentially show established businessmen how we could, for about $10-12,000, establish L-1 situations in the U.S. for such businessmen, help them and their families get settled and start their U.S. enterprises, and, a year later, when the U.S. company was active and strong, proceed with permanent residency for the family.
Like shooting fish in a barrel, right? That's what I thought, too! As I sat on those 22 hour Transpacific flights and planning my witty interview with Robin Leach, I never imagined the problems Barney and I would have convincing the Chinese that we were not con men. It was unreal. We'd do our seminars in the big hotels, run our ads, meet with clients, answer their questions -- all of it would go splendidly. Our target clients were "small business L-1 prospects." In South America, that might mean a person owning a business grossing perhaps U.S. $300,000 and having 10-20 employees. In Hong Kong, it meant a person owning a business grossing about U.S. $1.5-3 million, with 40-100 employees...and there were maybe 50 of them on every block. All were eager to meet us, wine us, dine us, and pump us for info, but when it was time to put the money on the table and drive it off the lot... nada... zippo... only a TINY percentage of those sincerely interested hired us, the rest just... disappeared...
Or did they? We found out later that the problem stemmed more from the fact that, despite our having excellent translators and despite the fact that the vast majority of our prospective clients spoke English, Hong Kong businessmen preferred to deal with those who were native speakers of language...legal expertise was often a secondary consideration. (Corrected 4/17/02). Instead of the 10-12K which would have gotten their family permanent residency, they instead spent $25,000 on a Chinese alien smuggler PER PERSON...to have the person -- often a niece, son, or key employee -- dropped off in Oregon, Washington, or wherever, completely illegally.
I left Hong Kong without my fortune but with a considerable education.
Imagine my surprise when I read the March 27 article in the LA Times about the arrest of 4 individuals who were collecting the VERY same amount -- $25,000 -- from Asian clients as well!! But this time, the story is so good it almost sounds like TV episode. Led by a creative Eastern European lady named Elzbieta Malgorzata Bugajska, age 50 (henceforth, the "Bug" lady), John Patrick Bradley, also 50, Yolanda Miel (that means "Honey", by the way, so, henceforth, "Honey") Lubiano, age 62, and Lorena Velasquez Garcia, age 39, pulled the wool over some Koreans and Filipinos who were, to their detriment, looking for a "shortcut" to citizenship. Get this...
The "Bug" lady, it seems, concocted quite a scheme, advising Korean and Filipino nationals that she could obtain "fast-track processing" for their immigration applications. She, Honey, and Ms. Velasquez lured clients to the trap. At Honey's house, Mr. Bradley would don a black robe (I imagine pretending to be a federal judge?) and the would be immigrants were given a quiz on U.S. history and politics as well as an obligatory Pledge of Allegiance. Fortunately for Mr. Bradley, who does NOT know the Pledge of Allegiance, one of the immigrants was there to assist him to complete the Pledge.
How we doin' so far? Is this great or what?
The "Bug" lady -- who, I'm hoping, is en route back to her native country as we speak -- also sold GENUINE Social Security cards to immigrants for $750 each. These she got from the delightful Ms. Velasquez, who after 15 years with the Social Security Administration apparently decided she had a proprietary interest in the card production equipment... Is this what they mean by "vesting?"
I'll tell you guys, this line of business just gets weirder and weirder every day. The level of human desperation for security in this country is heart breaking, and the depths to which scum sink is bottomless, isn't it? All the while, everyday, there is an army of good, decent attorneys out there, charging fair fees and getting it done...REALLY! Okay, so a lot of the attorneys are lame...agreed. And, yes, some charge insane fees. But there are some really great ones who charge fair prices.
Everyone has lost their faith in my profession but look around and see the heroes. Look at the Tammy Fox-Isicoffs, the Maddy Garcias, the Mark Citrins, the Lisa Enfields. Hell, look at us here at Latour and Lleras, or at Siskind.
There's no need for this stuff and the "Bug" ladies of the world should be obsolete in a country like ours.
P.S. Effective immediately, our new H-1B fee for Asian clients is $25,000... Kirsten, brace for the stampede....(-;
About The Author
Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site, www.usvisanews.com, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.