LOS ANGELES – A Fontana man and two Santa Paula men were arrested on Thursday for the participation of an immigration fraud scheme officials said.
The three were indicted for offering the H-2A work visas, charging Mexican nationals thousands of dollars to obtain the visas and for additional expenses. The H-2A visa is meant to allow employers to hire foreigners when suitable workers are not available in the United States. The H-2A work visas are supposed to offer no-cost temporary work, with the employer being responsible for the costs of government-related fees, equipment needed for job performance, transportation to and from the workplace, and any costs associated with housing. In order for these workers to receive visas, government agencies must certify the need for foreign workers as opposed to workers already in the United States, so that those already available to work in the United States are not negatively impacted.
Those arrested include: Jorge Vasquez, 58, of Fontana and the owner of H-2A Placement Services, a farm labor recruiting company from Rancho Cucamonga; Melquiades Jacinto Lara, 62, of Santa Paula, the owner of J&D Harvesting, which contracted workers to farms in Ventura County, and Richardo Mendoza Oseguera, 39, of Santa Paula, the owner of Discoteca Mi Pueblito, a music and convenience store in Santa Paula, which redeemed vouchers given to workers for J&D Harvesting after deducting fees from the workers’ pay. The three were alleged to be part of a scheme charging the Mexican farmworkers illegal fees for transportation, room, and board. The contractors promised the United States Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the workers would not have to pay these expenses. In addition to these expenses, the workers were charged fees to obtain their visas, which is prohibited under the program.
It is alleged in the indictment that Vasquez recruited farmworkers in Mexico charging them as much as $3,000 in order to obtain their H-2A visas. Vasquez also made false promises to workers about the time limits on their visas and failing to tell them about the charges for housing, food, and transportation. “Vasquez is also alleged to have promised an H-2A visa to an undercover agent with the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General who Vasquez believed was an undocumented individual working in the construction industry in Las Vegas and had no interest in working in the agricultural industry, in exchange for $3,500 to $4,000,” U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a news release. According to USCIS records, Vasquez and Jacinto have filed petitions for more than 350 workers since 2012, with the charges being filed connected with 75 workers hired to harvest lemons, avocados, and oranges.
Vasquez and Jacinto were charged with conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud, one count of visa fraud, and one count of fraud in foreign labor contracting for allegedly telling foreign workers in 2013 that the H-2A visas would be valid for three years when they knew the visas would expire later that year. In addition, Jacinto and Mendoza were charged with one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Mendoza’s business served as a check-cashing and wire transfer service where the farmworkers would redeem vouchers or checks paid to them by Jacinto and send money internationally.
If convicted as charges, the maximum sentences are 20 years in federal prison for mail fraud, 10 years in prison for visa fraud, and five years each for conspiracy, fraud in foreign labor contracting and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business
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This article was written by a staff member of the 24/7 Headline News Organization
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