Reno – Four Reno immigration fraud suspects pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 for their participation in a Reno-area immigration assistance scam, announced Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
Charles Doucette, 39, Deborah Stilson, 40, and Shauna Shaw, 37, pled guilty before Judge Stephen Elliott for felony charges of obtaining money under false pretenses. Cybil Duran Berti, 37, a co-defendant pled guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses.
“These individuals swindled money and exploited immigrants who were tricked into believing this was a legitimate business or that they were dealing directly with federal authorities,” said Masto.
“This case should send a clear message that we will continue to hold individuals accountable. The State’s filed complaint alleges criminal action against Doucette, Stilson, Shaw and Berti based on information they were operating a business, that went by a variety of names, that deceived people into believing they were employees or agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and could assist customers in obtaining forms, completing these forms and filing them with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The charges are the result of a joint action between the State of Nevada and federal authorities resulting in the seizure of Telestaffing, which was doing business under several names, including Immigration Forms, Immigration Forms Processing Center, Immigration Forms and Services, Immigration Forms and Documents, USA-Helpline.Info, and Immigration Helpline. Reno business locations, where several internet websites and call centers were maintained, include 160 Hubbard Way and 510 Plumb Lane. Those customers who paid by check found the defendants used the information on those checks to create a duplicate electronic check without authority, resulting in a double payment for the filing. Those who paid by money order or by other means found the defendants either refused to file the documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or simply took no action and kept the money. Delays in the processing of customers’ immigration papers caused some to lose their legal status.
Conviction for felony charges of obtaining money under false pretenses carries a potential penalty of imprisonment from one to six years in Nevada State Prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000, and payment of restitution to the six victims who were willing to testify and were named in the criminal information.
Conviction for the gross misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to obtain money under false pretenses carries a potential penalty of one year in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000.
In total the Nevada Attorney General's office received 191 complaints, which help launch an investigation into the matter. Sentencing is set for March 27.
The case is being prosecuted by John McGlamery, Senior Deputy Attorney General. If you suspect you may be a victim, contact the Federal Trade Commission to recover any documents sent to this operation.