US Court Acquits Filipina Immigration Consultant, Grants Motion For New Trial

CHICAGO (FAXX/JGL) – A Filipina immigration consultant convicted of three counts of encouraging or inducing illegal immigration of her fellow Filipino nationals for private financial gain and three counts of mail fraud got a split ruling from United States District Judge Ronald M. Whyte of the Northern District of California in San Francisco after she appealed her jury trial conviction.

Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, 66, who has immigration consultation business in San Jose and “store front” offices in Beverly Hills and La Jolla, all in California, and Las Vegas, Nevada and New York, New York, won a judgment of acquittal and a new trial from three counts of mail fraud when the U.S. government failed to prove that Sineneng-Smith “made any representations at all regarding (“O.”) Galupo’s ability to obtain legal residency” nor “encouraged Galupo to reside illegally in the United States.”

But Sineneng-Smith faces four other counts, including Counts Two (against “A.” Guillermo) and Count Three (against “H.” Esteban) before Judge Whyte as “this interpretation” of the immigration law “does not render it unconstitutionally vague or deny Sineneng-Smith fair notice.”

The U.S. government represented by Northern District U.S. Attorneys Melinda Haag and Susan Knight set a status hearing on May 27, 2014 for the tax counts involved in the case which consist of “voluminous bank records and deposit analysis of several accounts” obtained by the government thru discovery.

In acquitting Sineneng-Smith and conditionally granting her motion for a new trial, Judge Whyte said the government failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Sineneng-Smith committed mail fraud, for (1) knowingly devising and intending to devise a scheme or plan to defraud, or a scheme or plan for obtaining money by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; (for) (2) the statements made or facts omitted as part of the scheme were material; (for) (3) Sineneng-Smith’s acting with the intent to defraud; and (4) Sineneng-Smith using, or causing to be used, the mails to carry out or attempt to carry out an essential part of the scheme.

JUDGE WHYTE LET STAND COUNTS TWO & THREE

But Judge Whyte let stand the government’s charge against Sineneng-Smith of mail fraud in Count Two when Guillermo testified that she met with defendant Sineneng-Smith and Sineneng-Smith’s staff member, and Guillermo’s employer, Marilyn Santiago, in 2002, when he signed a retainer agreement to obtain labor certification, paying Sineneng-Smith $200 per month plus down payment for a total of $5,900 that would allow him to work.

When Guillermo got the approval of labor certification after five years, Sineneng-Smith urged Guillermo to apply for a “Petition for Alien Worker (I-140)” and caused him to sign a retainer agreement at $1,000 while she paid $300 down for a “premium processing service” for “Work Permit/Green Card” although impossible to obtain.

The charge of Count Three (by Esteban) had the same circumstances as Guillermo and had even “stronger evidence” as it was “uncontested that Sineneng-Smith knew that Esteban’s continued residence in the United States was illegal.”

Galupo’s “encouragement” was thrown out as Galupo did not testify at trial.

Galupo, Guillermo and Esteban were among the individuals Sineneng-Smith attracted she knew were working illegally in the U.S. who responded to her advertisements in Filipino newspapers and flyers at residential healthcare facilities where these individuals were working.

Count Four was based on a letter dated Dec. 2, 2005 that defendant Sineneng-Smith transmitted to Department of Labor Application for Permanent Employment Certification for Galupo mailed from San Jose to Chicago, Illinois.

Count Five was a letter dated July 12, 2007 signed by Sineneng-Smith, accompanying Guillermo’s I-140 mailed from San Jose to Lincoln, Nebraska; while Count Six was based on the leniency letter dated Oct. 22, 2007 Esteban received from Sineneng-Smith.

Esteban testified when he first met Sineneng-Smith, she told him “to trust her because she studied law, and that her office was trustworthy, and that there were many people whose petitions had been approved.”

SINENENG-SMITH FOUND GUILTY BY JURY

Sineneng-Smith’s guilty verdict followed a 13-day jury trial before Judge Whyte.

Evidence at trial showed that Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consultation business in San Jose, California, from 1990 to 2008. She advised foreign nationals, mainly Filipino citizens who came to the United States on visitors’ visas, to apply for a labor certification from the United States Department of Labor as path towards obtaining lawful permanent residence.

She charged her victims $5,900 to file such applications all the while knowing that the law had changed, and that her clients did not qualify under existing immigration regulations to obtain lawful permanent residence.

According to the testimony of several victims, Sineneng-Smith failed to inform them that they were ineligible to obtain permanent residence. In addition, Sineneng-Smith encouraged victims to overstay the time allowed under their tourist visas and work illegally in residential healthcare facilities.

Evidence at trial showed that Sineneng-Smith deposited over $3.3 million dollars in payments from clients from August 2004 through 2007.

“Those who corrupt the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system must understand there are serious consequences for those actions,” said Joseph Vincent, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, San Jose. “We will continue to work with our counterparts to investigate those who manipulate and exploit that system for their own personal financial gain.”

Sineneng-Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 14, 2010. She was charged with three counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain and three counts of mail fraud. She is assisted by private defense counsel Daniel F. Cook.

She was sentenced on November 4, after the court considers post-trial motions. The maximum penalty for each count of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. She also faces 20 years for each count of mail fraud and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution.

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PHOTO CAPTION:  Evelyn Sineneng-Smith

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