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Posted on: May 30th, 2017
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SEC Charges EB-5 Operator With Securities Fraud

An Idaho man siphoned away millions of dollars for personal use rather than investing in creating jobs in the United States as he agreed to do through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC has alleged that Serofim Muroff garnered more than $140.5 million in EB-5 offerings to Chinese investors through his companies Blackhawk Manager and ISR Capital, with the understanding that it would be used to acquire and develop luxury real estate in McCall, Idaho, and invest in gold mining ventures in Idaho and Montana. Muroff allegedly misappropriated more than $5 million in investor funds for unrelated uses such as investment in a zip line operation, purchase of two personal residences, and two vehicles.

Jina L. Choi, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office, was quoted as stating, “As alleged in our complaint, Muroff secretly enriched himself with millions of dollars in EB-5 investor funds that should have gone into job-creating enterprises.”

Muroff and his companies agreed in a settlement subject to court approval to pay disgorgement of $5,062,082 plus interest of $865,270 and a $2 million penalty. Furthermore, Muroff agreed to being prohibited from conducting EB-5 offerings, acting as an officer or director for a public company, and associating with any investment advisor. Debra L. Riddle, Muroff’s administrative assistant and bookkeeper, was charged in the SEC’s complaint along with Muroff and agreed to pay disgorgement of $503,417 plus interest of $81,626 and a penalty of $100,000. Neither denied nor admitted the allegations in the SEC’s complaint.

For more information, view the SEC press release.

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DHS Releases Fraud Alert Regarding its Hotline Number Being Used to Fraudulently Obtain Personally Identifiable Information

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an announcement warning of its Office of Inspector General (OIG) hotline number being fraudulently utilized to obtain personal identity information. The DHS Office of Inspector General issued the fraud alert to inform citizens that its hotline number had been used as part of a telephone spoofing scam targeting individuals nationwide. The perpetrators pose as employees with “U.S. Immigration” and have the capability of manipulating caller ID systems to mask the origins of the call making it appear as it is coming from the DHS OIG Hotline telephone number (1-800-323-8603). The scammers, many of whom are reported to have pronounced accents, demand to obtain or verify personally identifiable information through various techniques, including falsely informing individuals that they are the victims of identity theft. DHS asserts its hotline number as operating unidirectional; the hotline can only receive calls from the public and is never used to make outgoing calls. Therefore, anyone who receives calls claiming to come from 1-800-323-8603 should decline to answer the call and never provide personal information to anyone calling from this number, according to DHS. DHS also assures the security of the hotline for incoming calls; it encourages individuals to continue to contact the hotline to report instances of fraud, abuse, waste, or mismanagement within DHS components or programs. Individuals who believe themselves to be the victims of this spoofing scam should call the hotline or file an online complaint through the DHS OIG website at www.oig.dhs.gov, or alternatively contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint and/or report identity theft.

For more information, view the DHS announcement.

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Certain Students Applying for English Language Study and 24-month STEM OPT Extension Programs Affected by the ACICS Loss of Accreditation

The United States Department of Education announced on December 12, 2017 its discontinuation of recognizing the Accrediting Counsel for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. Two immigration-related programs were immediately affected by this announcement:

  • English language study programs, as the programs are required to obtain accreditation under the Accreditation of English Training Programs Act;
  • F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, since the requirements dictate that the use of a degree from an accredited university Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is the basis for their STEM OPT extension.

SEVP will provide affected students with guidance in notification letters, if their schools’ accreditation is withdrawn. To better understand if and how the loss of recognized accreditation will impact the F/M student’s status and/or immigration benefits application(s), students enrolled at an ACICIS-accredited school should immediately contact their designated school officials (DSOs).

International students will have 18 months to accomplish one of the following, if an ACICS-accredited school voluntarily withdraws from SEVP certification or is unable to provide evidence in lieu of accreditation for programs listed on their Form I-17:

  • Transfer to a new SEVP-certified program;
  • Continue their program of study until the current session end date listed on their Form I-20 (not to exceed 18 months); or
  • Depart the United States.

Any active F/M student who has failed to transfer to an SEVP-certified school or departed the United States before the 18-month grace period concludes will have their SEVIS records terminated. It is noteworthy that this guidance applies equally to all F/M students, without regard to program of study, and the 18-month period is valid for English as a Second Language (ESL) students as well.

ACICS-accredited schools will not be able to issue program extensions, and students will only be permitted to complete their current session if the ACICS-accredited school decides to voluntarily withdraw its certification or is withdrawn by SEVP. If a student’s ACICS-accredited school is capable of providing evidence of an ED-recognized accredited agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the timeframe provided, the student can remain at the school to complete their program of study.

English Language Study Programs

USCIS issues requests for evidence (RFEs) to individuals who have filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after December 12, 2016, requesting a change of status or reinstatement in order to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program. Once the RFE is received, individuals will then be able to supply evidence in response; this can include documentation showing the English language study program in which they would like to enroll meets the accreditation requirements.

If the student fails to submit a new Form I-20 from an accredited school, USCIS will deny a change of status or reinstatement request because the program of study is no longer accredited by an entity recognized by ED.

For more information, view the announcement.

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USCIS Updates Numerous Forms

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated a number of forms. Below is a list of all updated forms and the pertinent changes USCIS made.

Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status

The new edition is dated 04/21/17. Beginning 07/24/2017, USCIS will exclusively accept the edition dated 04/21/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 05/07/15 edition.

Form G-639, Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Request

The new edition is dated 04/17/17. Beginning 07/24/2017, USCIS will exclusively accept the edition dated 04/17/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 03/31/15 edition.

Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended)

The new edition is dated 04/24/17. Beginning 07/24/2017, USCIS will exclusively accept the edition dated 04/24/17.  Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

The new edition is dated 04/13/17, but individuals can also file using the edition dated 12/23/16.

Form I-881, Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal (Pursuant to Section 203 of Public Law 105-100 (NACARA))

The new edition is dated 03/21/17, but previous editions can also be used when filing.

Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status

The new edition is dated 03/31/17, but previous editions can also be used when filing.

For more information, view the USCIS update page.

 

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