SAN DIEGO — Federal authorities said Tuesday they are investigating for suspected fraud more than 1,000 farm worker amnesty applications tied to an Imperial Valley farm labor contractor.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Diego called the case "potentially the most far-reaching farm worker fraud case to date."
INS officials said the entire amnesty program for alien farm workers is already riddled with abuse, and nearly one-third of the applications are suspected of being fraudulent.
In the California case, "the INS is currently reviewing all . . . (farm worker amnesty) applications, estimated to be in excess of 1,000, reflecting the signature of Carlos Duran-Davila," the agency said in a press release.
Applications linked to Duran-Davila, 52, the Imperial Valley contractor, have been filed throughout California and as far away as Texas, New York and Detroit, authorities said. Most applicants were citizens of Mexico or various Central American nations, the INS said, but nationals of Pakistan and India were also involved in the scheme.
Fraudulent applicants seeking legal residence under the farm-worker amnesty program paid the contractor and his associates up to $3,500 for documents, which declared falsely that they had worked in the fields for sufficient time to qualify, said John Adkisson, an INS supervisory special agent in Calexico.
A Pakistani citizen participating in the alleged fraud, Syed Mohammed Azam, 24, of Los Angeles, was sentenced Monday in San Diego to nine months in jail and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, authorities said. He was a courier who transported fraudulent amnesty documents between the Imperial Valley and Los Angeles, Adkisson said.
Duran-Davila had pleaded guilty to an earlier amnesty fraud charge in U.S. District Court in San Diego and is scheduled to be sentenced July 24.