Authorities have just busted an immigration fraud scheme centered in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown.

In nine federal indictments unsealed yesterday, the Justice Department charged 26 lawyers, paralegals, translators and other employees who work with 10 New York immigration law firms with helping their Chinese clients lie on their asylum applications and deceive immigration authorities. According to prosecutors, clients paid the defendants to come up with elaborate stories of persecution in their home country, including forced abortion and persecution because of religious or political beliefs. The defendants created fake birth certificates and other official documents.

“Asylum fraud imposes a tremendous burden on the system and it also makes it more difficult for those who are legitimately seeking refuge in this country,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

All 26 defendants are charged with conspiring to commit immigration fraud and face between five and 35 years in prison. Five defendants are charged with immigration fraud, and two defendants are charged with identity fraud for selling fake birth certificates.

Twenty-one of the defendants, including six lawyers, worked in law firms, many of which are located in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The firms include the Law Firm of Freddy Jacobs; the Law Office of Ken Giles; the Law Offices of John Wang, Moslemi and Associates; Bandrich and Associates; Gao and Associates; and the Law Offices of Adedayo Idowu.

Read Thomson Reuters for more information.

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