Large-Scale Immigration Fraud Scheme Unveiled, Bronx-Based Attorney and Son Arrested
January 22, 2023
NEW YORK – In a significant development, Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Michael Alfonso, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging Bronx-based immigration attorney Kofi Amankwaa and his son, Kofi Amankwaa Jr., with carrying out a large-scale immigration fraud scheme. The defendants are scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated, “As alleged, Kofi Amankwaa, an immigration attorney, and his son, Kofi Amankwaa Jr., sought to make a mockery of the U.S. immigration system by conspiring to defraud the United States and commit immigration fraud. Amankwaa and his son allegedly exploited the Violence Against Women Act – a law that allows noncitizen victims of domestic abuse a path to lawful permanent residence status – for their own financial gain by falsely claiming that their clients were victims of domestic abuse. Thanks to the dedicated actions of our law enforcement partners and the career prosecutors of this Office, the defendants must now answer for these crimes.”
HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso added, “Kofi Amankwaa is charged with deceitful practices whereby he allegedly victimized clients who relied on his legal assistance with their immigration process. HSI is committed to protecting the applicants, petitioners, and requestors of U.S. citizenship who, unfortunately, are often at risk of falling for scams or fraud. HSI is thankful for the collaboration in this investigation with other Department of Homeland Security components, as well as other federal agencies, who continue to help us combat document and benefit fraud.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint, from September 2016 through November 2023, Amankwaa and Amankwaa Jr. met with clients and directed them to sign fraudulent Form I-360 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Petitions, falsely stating that the clients were abused by their U.S. citizen children. Amankwaa, under penalty of perjury, also signed the petitions as the attorney preparer.
The defendants used the filing of the fraudulent Form I-360 VAWA Petitions, among other filings, as a basis to request advance parole travel documents for their clients. These documents enable individuals without legal status in the United States to travel abroad temporarily and return. Subsequently, the defendants instructed their clients, upon obtaining the advance parole travel documents, to travel abroad and re-enter the United States. Lastly, the defendants exploited the fraudulently procured advance parole as a basis for their clients to apply for lawful permanent resident status.
Crucially, the defendants carried out this illegal scheme with the knowledge that their clients had not actually been abused by their children, nor did they inquire about any such abuse. Furthermore, the defendants often failed to secure lawful permanent resident status for their clients as their immigration applications were denied due to fraud and other reasons. For their services, the defendants typically charged their clients $6,000, plus administrative fees.
In November 2023, following numerous complaints by clients regarding the fraudulent abuse allegations, Amankwaa’s license to practice law in the State of New York was suspended.
Kofi Amankwaa, 69, and Kofi Amankwaa Jr., 37, both residents of South River, New Jersey, now face charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit immigration fraud, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. They are also charged with immigration fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. It is important to note that the maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Williams commended the exceptional investigative work of HSI and expressed gratitude to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Fraud Detection and National Security for their support in this investigation. He also highlighted that the New York State Attorney General’s Office has initiated a parallel civil proceeding against Amankwaa and Amankwaa Jr.
This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Z. Margulies leading the prosecution.
It is essential to remember that the charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
(Picture: Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com)