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Lawyer accused of selling fake work visas and buying cemetery plots

October 16, 2009 |  2:06 pm

Immigration and customs officials said today the investigation into a decadelong employment visa fraud scheme has led to a dead end – cemetery plots.

An attorney and two business associates were arrested Thursday for allegedly selling at least 100 fake visas and using the profit to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of vacant burial plots, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Kelly Einstein Darwin Giles, 46, owner of a West Covina law practice, was arrested by customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a trip. His two business associates, Joseph Wai-man Wu, 50, and Wu's wife, May Yin-man Wu, 43, were arrested earlier in the day. Bail for the pair was set at $250,000 each. All three are charged with visa fraud.

They are accused of setting up nearly a dozen fake companies to file fraudulent employment visa petitions, many of them for H1-B visas, which are reserved for foreign workers with specialized skills, according to ICE. The immigrants named in the applications never worked for the defendants or the fictitious companies.

Cemetery plots are a novel investment because they typically appreciate at a rate of up to 10% a year and are less susceptible to economic downturns, according to an ICE news release.

"It's unique in the sense that we haven't run into this before that an individual seeking to hide proceeds goes out and purchases cemetery plots," said Jorge Guzman, ICE assistant special agent in charge. "There are always new ways in which criminals will try and hide money, but this is by far one of the most unique."

Customs agents searched Giles' office Thursday and seized immigration applications and documents, financial records and computer equipment. The investigation is currently focused on the three individuals, but other suspects  may be identified in the future, Guzman said. Investigators also will work to identify those who obtained the fake work visas, which will be revoked, he said.

-- Raja Abdulrahim

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