Thursday, June 09, 2005

Guatemalan Smuggling Ring Leads to Connecticut

A Stamford apartment renter told me about strange doings in the apartment above. When the couple threw a first-birthday party for their baby, my contact took up a little birthday present. They didn't let her in, but standing in the doorway, she saw numerous people sitting at a long table busily filling in forms. There were eye-popping stacks of cash on another table. Despite the lengthy parade of people coming and going that day, there were no signs of cards, presents, birthday cake, baby or party paraphernalia but the batch of balloons adorning the porch posts.

My contact found out (for the person's safety, I won't detail how) that a hundred people filled out paperwork for employer-sponsored work visas that day. It turns out the landlord & tenant have a nifty biz on the side: bogus work visas, 100 per batch, about twice a year. The illegal alien tenant is the east-end of a Guatemalan smuggling ring. Smuggler ships them in, landlord rents them an apartment and applies for work visas. Rents in Stamford aren't that much lower than Manhattan: $1200 & up for 2-bedroom flats in old houses south of the freeway. Another $5000 for a bogus work permit, which qualifies the bearer for a Social Security card. The landlord can't actually hire any of these people; he doesn't so much as hire lawnmower man for the tiny patches of grass in front of some of his buildings.

The mother of this baby collected welfare (TANF), food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, etc. A little "investigative journalism" resulted in a couple of prime tidbits; I phoned State officials. Sure enough, the registration for the nifty new $35,000 SUV she drove showed up on their computer. Hispanics conveniently (for facilitating fraud) have two last names and no readily verifiable identification: she used one of her maiden names and claimed the baby's father, to whom she claimed to be unmarried, was in Guatemala. Having married in Guatemala, there's no record of it US authorities can check. Likewise, it is difficult to confirm whether the baby was actually born in the US or is an "anchor baby via identity-theft." Either way, under Guatemalan law their child is a Guatemalan citizen. State welfare officials started their fraud investigation while I was still on the phone with them.

It has been 14 months since I reported this to ICE, et alia. Nothing appears to have been done about it so far. The income tax fraud report to the IRS on landlord and tenants' massive illicit cash income from smuggling, drug dealing, bogus work permit fees, landlord's under-the-table (cash) rent payments, smuggler's under-the-table restaurant-job wages seems not to have generated any follow-up in that quarter.

This Guatemalan couple must generate roughly a million bucks a year in untraceable cash, and they collected welfare and food stamps out of American taxpayer pockets.

[calculations -- smuggler: 100 work permits x $5000 each x 2 batches = $1M, divided between landlord & smuggler = $500,000; smuggling fees, estimated cut at this end, at least $1000 each x 200 = $200,000; restaurant wages ("cover job") @$300/week = $15,000; "finder's fee" split on the rents for 200 people, drug sales, bogus ID sales & miscellaneous revenues, plus smuggling fees for non-work-permit buyers]

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