Police say that Laura Luz Maria Torres purchased several Florida-area homes over the past decade with $2 million that was mostly acquired by defrauding undocumented immigrants. The law when it comes to undocumented immigrants is stranger than you may think. While it’s illegal for an employer to knowingly hire someone they know is not a permanent resident, if they do hire this person, they are still protected by U.S. labor laws. Further, undocumented immigrants have the same rights when it comes to gaining justice for exploitation. Those who defrauded them can and will be held accountable under U.S. laws regardless of who their victims are. Torres is learning this legal oddity the hard way.
Torres managed to scour $2 million from undocumented immigrants who she offered to help. Torres filed fraudulent asylum applications on behalf of the immigrants and managed to get some of them working papers. However, she used their identities to file over $1.8 million in fake tax returns. The money was laundered through a California immigration lawyer and used to purchase real estate here in Palm Beach. She is also accused of collecting over $67,000 in food stamps.
Torres pleaded guilty to three counts; one count of committing immigration fraud; one count of laundering government money; and one count of defrauding the SNAP program. Each of these is a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years a piece. Torres faces 15 years behind bars but has likely been offered some kind of plea deal in exchange for her guilty plea.
Anatomy of an Immigration Fraud
The government contends that Torres took anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000 per case. According to police, she made up fake programs and statutes like “the law of ten years” and “the family reunification program”. Torres then filed asylum applications on behalf of her “clients” making up fake stories and personal histories to justify an asylum offer. Asylum seekers must prove that there is a credible threat to their life if they should be returned to their home country. In some cases, she reused the same narratives over and over. She would provide training to those who made it to the interview stage concerning how to lie to the government.
While Torres faces 15 years in jail, her victims are facing deportation. Because she made material misrepresentations of the truth in their name, they may be excluded from ever being considered for a green card, let alone citizenship. She essentially robbed them of any chance they had to file a legitimate asylum application with the government, and now they will need a lawyer to argue for them as to why they should not be held accountable for a fraud committed on their behalf.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve committed immigration fraud, lied to the government on official documents, and turned a heavy profit on it, you can expect to lose all the money you made and several years of your life, unless you have a skilled West Palm Beach criminal attorney who can successfully defend you from the charges. Call The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can help.