This is an immigration fraud story played out in unlikely place, Mississippi, and in which 10 people named Patel and their nine co-conspirators (including six or seven U.S. citizens) failed in their efforts to secure green cards for 11 aliens from India.
In one sense the conspirators, led by Sachin Girishkumar Patel, were creative, as they used two quite different fraudulent approaches to green card status.
But in another way, the conspirators lacked finesse.
I mean, if there are four government documents
- All seeking the same kind of green card status,
- All based in Jackson, Miss.,
- All signed by the same police officer,
- All dealing with different individuals with the same last name, Patel, and
- All completed on exactly the same day (June 4, 2015)
even the least gifted of bureaucrats is bound to notice. We don't know whether that monumental goof brought down the 19 conspirators, but those are the facts.
The five main conspirators, including two named Patel, used these two techniques in their efforts to secure legal status for their customers: They arranged four phony marriages between U.S. citizens and Indian citizens, including one named Patel. And they arranged for a crooked lawyer and a crooked cop (both apparently U.S. citizens) to fake applications for U visa status; this is the increasingly popular route to a green card in which an alien contends that he or she is a victim of a crime and should be given legal status as a result. (Some of us can't quite grasp the logic of this visa — victims should be helped, of course, but with a green card?)
All seven of the phony U visa applications were for people named Patel, all were handled by the indicted Georgia lawyer, Simpson Lloyd Goodman, and all were based on police reports filed by Ivory Lee Harris, an African-American cop who has since been fired by the police department. You might say that this was at least a partially integrated scam.
Mississippi is not a state known for a lot of immigration, and both the grand jury indictments and a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office on the case reflect that situation. The press release writes about the U.S. Customs (sic) and Immigration Service, and the indictment provides only the slimmest information on the nature of the immigration crimes.
As is normally the case, some money changed hands, but the Mississippi indictment offers only tidbits of evidence on this score and there is no dollar total offered.
Often in marriage fraud cases the citizen who marries the alien for money is not indicted. In this case four citizens, who were parts of the four phony marriages, were all indicted. There are two ongoing criminal proceedings, one for the marriage fraud, and the other for the U visas. The documents can be seen in these PACER files: 3:16-cr-00029-HTW-LRA, and 3:16-cr-00030-HTW-LRA. S.G. Patel leads the list of defendants in both cases.
When I was getting started in immigration research, about half a century ago, there was practically no overseas migration to Mississippi; in fact, that state and West Virginia vied for the highest proportion of native-born among the 50 states. Meanwhile, the chairman of both the Senate's Immigration Subcommittee and the full Judiciary Committee was the late James Eastland, the arch-conservative Democrat from that state. Sometimes two whole years would pass without a meeting of the immigration subcommittee.
Migration and Mississippi did not mix then, but maybe they do now.