SAN DIEGO, California: Three individuals have been arrested in connection with a scheme to defraud victims seeking immigration status in the United States. As part of the fraud, two of defendants – Hardev Panesar and Rafael Hastie – posed as officers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and promised that they could obtain immigration status for people in exchange for exorbitant fees. Gurdev Singh is also charged with assisting his conspirators in the fraudulent scheme.

According to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Wednesday, although Panesar and Hastie have never worked at DHS, since at least 2014 they falsely claimed to be DHS agents and falsely stated they had the authority to obtain lawful immigration documents and legal status for individuals who lacked such status in the United States. Panesar and Hastie also falsely claimed they had the power to stop deportation proceedings.

According to the indictment, the defendants defrauded victims out of approximately $6,000,000 from the scheme. Panesar, Hastie and Singh collected fees from victims under the guise that they would be able to provide immigration documents, and concealed from victims the fact that they would never be able to obtain immigration documents or status in the United States. Instead, the defendants converted the proceeds from the scheme to their personal use and benefit. Panesar, Hastie, Singh and others have solicited and recruited victims across the United States, including California and Indiana, and Mexico.

Panesar and Hastie convinced victims that they were agents, in part, because they showed fake agency credentials when meeting with the victims. Panesar and Hastie also provided immigration applications to victims and took fingerprints supposedly for immigration forms. They often demanded more money to speed up the process or guarantee the immigration documents by a certain date. Panesar, Hastie, and Singh never delivered on their promise to provide immigration documents, despite collecting thousands of dollars from each of the more than 150 victims.

The investigation into this case continues. The San Diego Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking possible victims in this investigation from 2000 through 2017.

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