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Attorney Samuel Kooritzky promised more than 1,600 immigrants jobs and legal residency. Unfortunately, he was running a scam. Nearly four months have passed since a federal jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted Kooritzky of 57 felony violations. He has forfeited $2.3 million in ill-gotten gains and will spend the next 10 years in prison. But the Kooritzky affair has had a cascading effect, touching thousands of immigrants and dozens of local businesses. And practically every immigration lawyer in town has a few “Kooritzky refugees” on file. The immigrants who trusted Kooritzky were “profoundly damaged by his actions,” says Cora Tekash, chair of the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “They have no prospects for the future.” For attorneys trying to help the Kooritzky clients, “our first course of action is to work with immigration officials on how to handle these cases. And if that’s not effective, litigate.” Kooritzky, 64, ran an immigration law empire. His firm, the Capital Law Centers, had offices in Virginia, Maryland, and the District. The law offices are now shuttered, and the attorneys — most of whom worked as contract employees — scattered across the region. Kooritzky’s scheme was fairly simple, as it was laid out during the trial: He took advantage of a now-defunct program designed to make it easier for employers to hire foreign workers. The law firm filed applications with the Department of Labor, purportedly on behalf of local businesses seeking foreign workers. Under the program rules, when the Labor Department signed off on an employment certification, an alien could then get a permanent visa, or green card, from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But the local businesses hadn’t signed on. The employers’ signatures were forged. And there were no jobs for Kooritzky’s clients. By the time law enforcement officials seized Kooritzky’s records in July 2001, his firm had filed more than 2,700 applications. Charging clients fees of up to $25,000, he raked in between $11 million and $21 million over 18 months, according to court records. His partner in crime was Ronald Bogardus, a former fire engineer for the State Department. Bogardus found the “jobs,” and Kooritzky’s firm handled the interface with the INS and the Labor Department. Bogardus pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy, money laundering, labor certification and immigration fraud, and extortion. He forfeited $4 million and is serving an eight-year prison term. Several others are also doing time for their participation in the scheme. The money Bogardus and Kooritzky forfeited to the government is slated for victim restitution through a receivership administered by Thomas Gorman, of Alexandria’s Tyler, Bartle, Gorman & Ramsdale. So far, there’s a toll-free number and a P.O. box. And eventually, notice will be made in Spanish-language newspapers. Many of Kooritzky’s victims are reluctant to come forward for their money, however, because they are now illegal aliens and fear arrest and deportation. Funds not disbursed will go to the U.S. Treasury. WELCOME TO AMERICA Magid Kahn Baloch was one of the victims. Baloch is a Pakistani national who had been working in the United Arab Emirates. Like many former clients, Baloch was in the United States legally on a temporary visa when he went to Kooritzky. He was visiting his daughter, then a student at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and saw a Kooritzky advertisement promising a job and permanent residency in the United States. The timing was perfect. Baloch’s job in the United Arab Emirates had ended, and he could not return to Pakistan because of death threats against his family by a religious extremist group. Baloch says he paid Kooritzky’s firm more than $25,000 but never got a job or green card. Today, he and his wife face deportation. He can no longer pay for his daughter’s studies. “I did my best to go through the law of this ‘land of shelter,’ ” Baloch says. “ But my family future remains destroyed and ruined because of the act of someone who was allowed to represent the law.” Baloch’s case is typical. Kooritzky advertised extensively in the D.C. area and around the world. Immigration attorneys here say they are getting calls from Seoul, Korea; Lahore, Pakistan; and beyond from former Kooritzky clients seeking counsel. The Katmandu Post reported last August that 500 Nepalese nationals had bought into the Kooritzky promise. For many, financial restitution is not enough. They want the impossible: to have their lives back the way they were before Kooritzky. “I came for my future and I lost my past,” says Rizwan Razzaq, who testified at Kooritzky’s sentencing. Before Kooritzky, Razzaq had a job and a home in Scotland with his wife and two children. Now, he is alone and illegal in the United States. Fed up with the Kooritzky mess, he says, his wife left him and took the kids back to Scotland. Razzaq, too, now plans to return to Scotland. “No lawyer can help us,” he says. The options for people such as Razzaq are limited: Cut one’s losses and go home. Take a chance working under the table. Try the immigration process again. Or sue. Baloch and at least 30 other former Kooritzky clients have put their hopes in the hands of immigration attorney Paul Allen. With his partner, former Rep. Peter Hoagland (D-Neb.), Allen filed a class action against Kooritzky in D.C. Superior Court in November alleging fraud, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Act and asking for punitive and treble damages. Allen’s firm, Paul Sherman Allen & Associates, is also advertising its services in helping former Kooritzky clients get restitution through the receiver. Even with restitution and damages from a successful class action, Allen notes, “before these people can be fixed” they need a remedy giving them a way to stay here legally. Immigration officials have indicated that they will not seek out illegal aliens identified in the Kooritzky case. Nor, however, will there be a blanket policy granting the victims another chance at securing a labor certification or permanent legal residency. The situation has immigration lawyers in a Catch-22. “How do you advise someone in a situation like this?” says Crystal Williams, director of liaison and information at AILA. “The further you push forward, the more attention you bring to your client.” Several lawyers say that immigration judges, whom they decline to name, have been adjourning deportation proceedings of Kooritzky victims. Ronald Richey, an immigration lawyer in Rockville, Md., with a few Kooritzky refugees on his roster, says he’s also seen a Kooritzky backlash among employers. “There is more reluctance to sponsoring foreign workers,” he says. “They’re concerned they may be next.” Richey has encountered legitimate sponsors who, in the wake of the Kooritzky case, have been getting calls from government investigators. “It makes them fearful, and they become less desirous of sponsoring,” he says. “It has a domino effect you can see.” Kooritzky’s attorney, Harvey Volzer of D.C.’s Shaugnessy, Volzer & Gagner, did not respond to calls seeking comment. So far, one of the employers burned by Kooritzky is fighting back in court. Betty Shiley, general manager of the Denny’s in Manassas, Va., and the C&S Restaurant Group Inc. have sued Kooritzky, Bogardus, and Capital Law Centers and are seeking at least $450,000 each. “Betty Shiley’s name was forged repeatedly on documents filed with the INS by Kooritzky, at his direction, or by his negligence,” says their attorney, Alfred “Rob” Robertson Jr. of Springfield, Va.’s Lewis & Associates. “Ms. Shiley and her reputation were hampered because of that, and it cost Ms. Shiley and C&S money.”

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