Immigration Law

Feds Charge Texas Immigration Scammer - Law360

Law360, July 10, 2015 - "A Texas woman who authorities say ripped off immigrants in federal detention centers by pretending to represent attorneys has been charged with wire fraud and identity theft.

Jessica Rivas Alva visited two detention facilities in Louisiana this year and offered the immigrants legal help if they agreed to deposit money into her bank account, federal prosecutors said.

Alva, who is not a lawyer and was not working for one, was indicted Wednesday by a federal jury in San Antonio on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Each of the wire fraud counts carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Texas said Alva, 35, was arrested last week in Sulphur, Louisiana, and remains in custody, awaiting a transfer to Texas. It was not immediately clear if Alva had an attorney.

Authorities said Alva was able to get access to immigrants in the South Louisiana Correctional Center and the LaSalle Detention Facility by faxing forged letters purporting to be from two San Antonio attorneys she once worked for.

The contact information on the letters was faked, prosecutors said, but included the lawyers' real names and bar numbers.

Once inside the facilities, prosecutors said, Alva met with detainees and offered to have the attorneys provide them with legal help if they would deposit fees into a bank account in her name.

One detainee told U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigators that Alva claimed to be the attorney’s assistant and said she would be handling their case. The individual’s family later gave her $1,500 for legal services, according to a recently unsealed complaint.

Alva had been barred by a Texas state court from entering any immigrant facility in the U.S. without being joined by an attorney she worked for, according to prosecutors."