Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Elvis Harold Reyes (56, Brandon) today pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme where he posed as an immigration attorney and filed hundreds of fraudulent asylum applications. Reyes faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for the mail fraud offense and a mandatory consecutive 2 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft offense. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to court documents, Reyes, who owned and operated EHR Ministries Inc., portrayed himself as an immigration attorney. Reyes is not and has never been a licensed attorney. Reyes targeted undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries who were seeking Florida driver licenses and work authorizations. Reyes gave false, inaccurate, and incomplete legal and immigration advice to victims in order to induce them to retain his services and those of EHR Ministries.
Victims retained and paid Reyes to represent them in immigration-related matters before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other agencies. Reyes filed fraudulent immigration applications in the victims’ names, seeking asylum relief and withholding-of-removal protections provided for under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In doing so, Reyes falsified answers to questions in the asylum applications—fabricating stories about threats, persecution, and the applicants’ fear of returning to their native countries. Reyes did not inform the victims of the answers that he had provided on their behalf. He also did not inform the victims about the legal, administrative, and other immigration-related consequences that might follow from filing for asylum relief or for Convention Against Torture protection.
Reyes filed more than 215 fraudulent applications, with intended losses to victims exceeding $1 million. Any person who was, or knows of someone who may have been, a possible victim is urged to contact the Homeland Security Investigations, at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or http://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank Murray.