Indian-origin man dupes over 100 people, admits to immigration fraud in US

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An Indian-origin man has pleaded guilty to orchestrating a long-running multi-million dollar immigration fraud scheme in which more than 100 people were falsely told they could secure immigration status in the US.

Hardev Panesar, 70, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel last week to counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, false impersonation of a federal officer, and structuring financial transactions.

Panesar is scheduled to be sentenced in May and faces more than 20 years in prison on all charges.

Panesar also pleaded guilty to a separate count of failing to appear in court, resulting from his decision to jump bail and flee to Mexico in June 2018, where he remained a fugitive for two months.

According to his plea agreement, Panesar admitted that from at least 2012 through May 2017, he defrauded immigrants and aliens by inducing them to pay money to him based on fraudulent claims that he and his co-conspirators could obtain legal status in the United States for the victims and their families.

Panesar managed to defraud the victims by, in part, impersonating an official from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and claiming that he had the power to stop deportation proceedings.

In order to trick his victims, Panesar repeatedly showed fake agency credentials, provided immigration applications, and took fingerprints of victims. He often demanded more money to speed up the process or guarantee the immigration documents by a certain date.

Panesar and his co-conspirators never delivered on their promise to provide immigration documents, despite collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims. As part of the plea agreement, Panesar agreed to pay approximately USD 2.5 million in restitution to his many victims.

He also admitted that in June 2018 he fled to Tijuana, Mexico, the day before a hearing scheduled in this case. Panesar remained a fugitive, hiding in Mexico, until August last year when he was arrested by Mexican authorities and expelled back to the United States. Panesar has been in custody ever since, pending trial.

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