Two Somerset County attorneys were indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in Trenton for making false statements under penalty of perjury in visa applications, following an investigation by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security.
Steven G. Thomas, 52, of New Hope, Pennsylvania, was arrested February 23, 2022 and charged by complaint with preparing and filing false visa applications on behalf of clients.
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced on Friday that Steven Thomas and Maria Thomas, 81, of Montgomery Township, New Jersey, were both indicted for conspiring to prepare and file false visa applications on behalf of clients.
Steven Thomas was also charged with one count of filing a false visa application.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the defendants encouraged their clients to apply for asylum under fraudulent pretenses from 2015 to 2021.
They advised their clients regarding the manner in which they were most likely to obtain asylum, knowing that these clients did not legitimately qualify for asylum.
The defendants then prepared, or caused to be prepared, fraudulent applications and affidavits on behalf of those clients, which were submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The object of the conspiracy was for the two lawyers to enrich themselves by making and supporting fraudulent claims for asylum on behalf of individuals who were not United States citizens.
In one case, an immigrant who lived in the US for about 20 years was charged about $15,000 for an asylum application, which contained multiple fraudulent assertions, including falsely asserting that the individual was a target for persecution, torture and assassination in his or her home country.
Although the applicant met with Steven Thomas, the Form I-589—a description about the applicant’s background and basis for seeking asylum—listed Maria Thomas as the preparer of the document, which was dated August 3, 2017.
Another individual, who had entered the United States unlawfully about 10 years earlier, told Steven Thomas that he or she did not fear violence or persecution in his or her native Guatemala but the lawyer said the applicant could seek asylum and charged about $16,000 for the application.
Steven Thomas prepared a Form I-589 that was dated April 7, 2017 and contained multiple fraudulent assertions, including falsely asserting that the individual was a target for persecution, torture and assassination in his or her home country.
A third person who had entered the United States unlawfully approximately 12 years earlier paid the Thomas and Thomas law firm $18,000 for an asylum application, which also contained multiple fraudulent assertions, including falsely asserting that the individual was a target for persecution, torture and assassination in his or her home country.
In early 2021, Steven Thomas met with a confidential source who, at the direction of law enforcement, was posing as a noncitizen seeking legal status in the United States.
During the meeting, the confidential source informed the lawyer that he or she had been present in the United States for approximately 20 years, and was told that the asylum application claiming protection on the basis of the violent situation in the source’s home country would cost $20,000.
A confidential source also met with Steven Thomas in January of 2020, he subsequently filed a visa application containing numerous false statements in April 2020.