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Investigation: Immigration scam?

June 30, 2011 3:11:05 PM PDT
In a time of sensitive homeland security, where counterfeit work documents are a big concern, did immigration officials ignore a family who offered to help expose a phony document ring?

They say they were victims of the fraud desperate to get legal documents.

Immigration officials tell us the information the family provided wasn't important enough to warrant keeping them in the country. They've been thru the deportation process and, unless there's an eleventh hour turnaround, they'll be on a plane out of the country on Friday.

But did agents really investigate? Our investigation suggests that the counterfeit ring may still be in business.

"I'm scared," Lolita Latchman said, breaking down in tears at the thought of being deported to the politically volatile South American country of Guyana. She and her husband fled to the US in 2005 after Affraz Ally's brother and cousin were murdered.

She said she was threatened.

They settled in Richmond Hill, Queens with their daughter. A son was born a couple of years later. Ally works as a plumber. Lolita works as a babysitter. They pay taxes, but they did not have legal documents and have been fighting the deportation process for years. Denied political asylum, enter a man who called himself Christopher Ram.

She said he told them that they could get both a social security card and a green card.

WALLCE: "You actually thought he was an immigration officer."

LOLITA: I asked him how are you going to get these documents? And he said he is working at 26 Federal Plaza.

WALLACE: "Why would you think this was legitimate?"

LOLITA: "Because he is working in there, so I believe he is going to get it done correctly."

They say he showed them samples with laminated holograms.

WALLACE: "In other words, you didn't think you were getting fake documents just to stay in the country?"

LOLITA: "No, I think it is a real document."

WALLACE: "So all told you paid him how much?"

LOLITA: "$11,000." $11,000."

Then Chris' cell phone number was changed. The couple volunteered to help Immigration agents bust the counterfeit ring during a meeting their attorney set up in January.

"They came back to us and said, 'We are just not interested in pursuing this right now. We get a lot of complaints like this,'" attorney Angelo MacDonald said.

We talked to James Hayes, the Special Agent in charge for Investigations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

WALLACE: If they're offering information about a phony document ring that appears to be continuing, isn't it important to keep them around as the source?

HAYES: "In terms of whether or not we're going to need them for future purposes, we do not believe in this instance that information is of the nature we need them in the future."

Hayes says the information the family provided was investigated, but how much? Just this week Lolita got a new cell phone number for Chris, who texted her back and said he could get a friend of hers work documents. We saw the messages.

Lolita said he told her this week that he could get a green card and a social security number.

His partner, he texted, worked in immigration, and he offered to set up a meeting.

"Chris said he's the one who works in immigration," Lolita said.

But no one showed up.

On Friday, Lolita has been ordered to show up at Kennedy airport to be deported to Guyana. It's a one-way ticket. Her children will come with her and her husband will follow.

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