Broward County

Woman ran a $147,000 immigration fraud out of a suburban business-park bakery office

The offices of Petite Bakery Cafe LLC and Immigration Form Center in Coral Springs
The offices of Petite Bakery Cafe LLC and Immigration Form Center in Coral Springs Broward County Property Appraiser

A Parkland woman who ran a bakery business in a Coral Springs business park with her husband pleaded guilty to running her own side hustle out of the same location: an immigration visa fraud.

Officially, the four counts of visa fraud belong solely to 51-year-old Jenny Hernandez. Her plea agreement states the government agrees not to prosecute Hernandez’s husband, 65-year-old Joel Ledezma, for anything he might have done to help the fraud, which pulled in $147,890 in just the four cases to which Hernandez pleaded guilty.

Part of the forfeiture in the case is 5461 N. University Dr., Suite 104, No. 1204, a business suite the couple bought for $400,000 in 2015. In that address were the offices of Petit Bakery & Cafe, which served food at a strip mall a five-minute drive away, and Immigration Form Center.

Through the latter, Hernandez charged her victims to file Form I-140s with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. These forms are for immigrants previously employed by a U.S. company in a manager or executive position for at least a year in another country and who will work for that company in a manager or executive role in the United States.

Under normal circumstances, the U.S. employers pays for the I-140’s preparation. The filing fee is $700. Hernandez overcharged the immigrants as well as falsely connected them to jobs and companies, according to court documents.

For example, her admission of facts says she filed an I-140 in April 2016 that claimed M.E. would be taking a job as Petit Bakery Cafe’s general manager, supervising even operations manager Hernandez.

Having Venezuelan-influenced cuisine doesn’t make Petit Bakery Cafe a multinational company, eligible to bring in workers via I-140 applications. And the only work M.E. did there was running a jewelery stand inside Petit Bakery Cafe’s office.

“Furthermore, M .E. would testify that [Hernandez] told her that she and her family could receive permanent residency in the United States,” Hernandez’s admission states. “The defendant charged a fee for a position in the defendant’s company and M .E. paid the defendant $64,000 by wire on or about October 5, 2015.”

Hernandez had made the same promise almost two years earlier to J.E.P.C., who was in the country on a B-2 visitor’s visa, as were Hernandez’s other three victims. He paid her with a $14,200 check and wrote “pago de Residencia” (“payment for residency”) in the memo space.

In July 2014, Hernandez filed a Form I-140 that said J.E.P.C. would work for a Doral supply company as a general manager. The application included the forged signature of a manager at the supply company.

But the Doral company didn’t know J.E.P.C. He testified he never applied for a position at the Doral company.

Another forged signature, allegedly from a manager at a Doral logistics company, marred the I-140 application for M.F. M.F. had paid Hernandez $50,900 over seven checks.

Who forged the signature on V.L.’s I-140 isn’t officially known, but the cellphone number and email address belong to Hernandez. She’s not an officer at the Doral investment company for which the application claimed V.L. would work.

Hernandez will be sentenced Aug. 29.

Margarita Rocha, executive director at Centro La Familia in Fresno, explains how clients become victims when trying to get help from some notary services.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.