SAN JOSE -- A 66-year-old San Jose woman is facing prison time after being convicted this week of a multimillion dollar racket targeting hopeful Filipino immigrants, who paid her to help them get legal residency even though their applications were destined to fail.
Prosecutors said Evelyn Sineneng-Smith knew full well that the labor certifications she helped clients pursue would not extend their visitors' visas into a legal way to remain in the country indefinitely.
"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," stated a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Evidence indicated Sineneng-Smith deposited more than $3.3 million in payments from clients between 2004 and 2007, according to the report. It adds that she encouraged clients to stay in the United States after their tourist visas expired and work illegally in residential health care facilities.
Sineneng-Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 14, 2010, and charged with three counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain and three counts of mail fraud.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000 plus restitution, although sentencing guidelines will be taken into consideration.
The 13-day trial in federal court ended with a conviction on Tuesday.
"Those who corrupt the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system must understand there are serious consequences for those actions," stated federal investigator Joseph Vincent. "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 will be sentenced on Nov. 4 in federal court.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.