Notario Sonny Tabula was prosecuted in Federal District Court for making false claims in visa applications for a period of time from 2001 to 2003. Ultimately, he was convicted for his crimes in October of 2005. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $40,000 for convictions on five counts of violating federal laws in connection with filing visa applications. (See Criminal Case No. SACR 04-00240-JVS)
His fifteen month sentence and fine, however, does not begin to remedy the substantial problems brought upon unsuspecting clients who used his services. A number of victims have used Mr. Tabula prior to retaining our firm. He had promised them work authorization, efforts to expedite existing cases or other services.
In each instance, however Mr. Tabula engaged in a scheme, unknown to the client, to file a marriage based immigration application. The filing of the application, supported by a fake marriage certificate and a companion application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or "work authorization") would produce a work authorization for the individual client.
What the client did not realize, is that at the time of an interview for their green card on a legitimate visa petition, they would be asked questions by the immigration officer regarding applications filed by a "prior spouse" who did not exist. There is nothing more embarrassing for a client to sit before an immigration officer, their legitimate husband or wife and their attorney only to find that there were false documents filed on their behalf with USCIS which claim they were married to somebody else.
Even worse the false visa application and documents calls into question the validity of the client's present marriage. Since there is no apparent divorce from the "prior spouse", USCIS may declare the current marriage invalid and determine that the client is inadmissible based on charges of marriage fraud for which there is no waiver or relief. Following denial of the case, that individual can be placed in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court.
We have been successful in untangling these cases by filing a detailed letter concerning the services provided by Sonny Tabula, the lack of knowledge on the part of the client as to his activities, and production of court documents and news accounts of Mr. Tabula's criminal activity. Only through this detailed account to USCIS have we been able to resolve cases which otherwise could not be approved by USCIS adjudicating officers.
If you have contracted with Mr. Tabula for any services whatsoever, it is highly advisable that you notify your attorney and be prepared to explain any unusual filings made with USCIS prior to the processing of your current, legitimate application for immigration benefits. In addition, it is also advisable that you file a Freedom of Information Act request or ("FOIA") with the appropriate USCIS office to determine what documents may have been filed with USCIS without your knowledge.
Whether you have dealt with Mr. Tabula, an unreputable employment agency, notario or other scam artist you should always be wary of promises from non-attorneys that seem too good to be true. Even when other people can verify that they have received work-authorization from a notario, they are probably not aware of the severe damage that has been done to their immigration case. This latest "fake marriage petition scam" is not unlike another past practice of filing false asylum claims. Persons receive a short term benefit, the work authorization and tell their friends who also go to the unscrupulous scam artist. Only later does everyone realize the terrible result when legitimate immigrant visas are denied and persons are at risk for deportation.
Robert J. DuPont is an attorney with the law firm of Wilner & O'Reilly. Mr. DuPont Graduated from Yale University and USC Law School and is admitted to the California Supreme Court, and Federal District Courts in the Central and Northern Districts of California as well as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. DuPont is a regular speaker with ILW, and past chairman of the Immigration Law Committee with the Beverly Hills Bar Association. Mr. DuPont has risen to prominence with a 10 year practice in the field of immigration law as well as influencing Department of State and USCIS practices and policies through Federal District Court litigation including a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on V-Visas eliminating age-out of minor V-visa recipients.