Miami-Dade woman indicted on immigration fraud charges

A Miami-Dade resident has been arrested and indicted in a federal case involving allegations of immigration fraud.

Josefa Siverio, 61, is now awaiting trial before U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno after pleading not guilty at her arraignment Feb. 23 on charges of mail fraud and other counts related to theft of checks and money orders, according to the indictment.

Siverio, born in Cuba, is only the latest defendant in a case involving immigration fraud that federal authorities have discovered in South Florida.

In another recent case, Venezuelan exile activist Maylin Silva is awaiting a hearing later this month in which she intends to plead guilty in connection with immigration fraud.

Both the Silva and Siverio cases were investigated by special agents of Homeland Security Investigations. A spokesman said the agency had no comment on the latest case because it’s still in judicial proceedings. But the U.S. Attorney in Miami, Wifredo Ferrer, commended its investigative efforts.

The Siverio case began in December 2010 when concerns arose about the services the defendant offered to immigrants.

“She promoted herself as an immigration consulting and services provider who prepared immigration petitions and applications for aliens,” according to the indictment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami said Siverio prepared at least 146 fraudulent petitions and applications for immigrants who paid for her services.

According to the indictment, Siverio did not send the immigration agency the checks and money orders she collected from immigrants. Instead, “she made the checks and money orders payable to herself,” the indictment said.

Court papers do not cite an amount the defendant allegedly pocketed or how much she charged each client.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “rejected the immigration benefit petitions and applications of Josefa Siverio’s clients because the required fees were not submitted with their petitions and applications,” the indictment said.

Florida incorporation records show a Josefa Siverio incorporated a company called Immigration and Naturalization Services, Inc., in May 2004. It did not list a phone number but had an address in Coral Gables near Southwest Eighth Street. The record showed that the incorporation was inactive. A telephone number listed for the company was disconnected.

Judge Moreno has tentatively scheduled trial for early April.

Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy