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East Tennessee Couple Plead Guilty in Immigration Fraud Case

February 16, 2011, by The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC

Immigration fraud cases are not very common in this part of the country, but a couple from Greeneville, Tennessee, recently pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, among other crimes. According to an article by Jamie Satterfield in the Knoxville News Sentinel, an East Tennessee woman and her bodyguard entered guilty pleas earlier this week to defrauding illegal immigrants in Tennessee and North Carolina of nearly $100,000 via claims of expertise in getting them legal citizenship.

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On Monday, Debra Lynn Gouge and Jawad Lashin pleaded guilty before Greeneville U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer to the following charges:

1. Wire Fraud [18 U.S.C. § 1343] 2. Concealment of Material Fact [42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(4)] 3. Fraud & False Statement Regarding a Tax Return [26 U.S.C. § 7601]

Plea documents indicate that the two defendants held themselves out to be immigration "specialists." Once unsuspecting immigrants paid for so-called immigration services, defendant Gouge would present her customers with documents to sign so that she could send the form to immigration officials to secure them legal citizenship. However, defendant Gouge failed to send in these forms.

The plea documents further indicate that "Gouge and (Lashin) never sent any immigration documents to any United States agencies. When customers questioned Gouge and (Lashin) about their status, Gouge and (Lashin) provided the customers false answers which were designed to stall their customers. In some instances, (Lashin) threatened customers with deportation."

Defendant Gouge also admitted to improperly receiving Social Security disability benefits while engaging in this immigration scam and also for failing to report her income to the IRS. Both defendants are set for a sentencing hearing on June 27th.