A Westchester woman and her brother are facing charges for their roles in a visa fraud scheme involving the enticing of illegal aliens to come to the United States to serve as domestic workers.
Bronxville resident Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi and her brother, Philippines native Ramon Singson Estrella, are facing time behind bars after being charged and arrested for running an elaborate scheme involving illegal immigrants, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced on Wednesday.
The allegations against the siblings claim that from 2006 through 2016, Jaidi and Estrella conspired with a third party to procure fraudulent visas for at least seven Filipino domestic workers. The third party - who was not named as a co-defendant - is Jaidi’s former husband, and is a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador.
To obtain the fraudulent visas, Jaidi and her then-husband forced the domestic workers to submit visa applications containing materially false statements and to submit fraudulent employment contracts in support of those visa applications. Estrella, who lives in Manila, helped recruit several of the domestic workers for their cause.
Berman noted that the fraudulent employment contracts also allegedly overstated the Domestic Workers’ salaries, understated their hours, and falsely guaranteed benefits, including, among others, sick leave, dental insurance, and medical insurance.
Once the domestic workers arrived stateside, Jaidi and her husband allegedly employed them as personal drivers, domestic helpers, farmhands, and assistants at their residence in Bronxville, as well as at their farm in the upstate New York town of Ancramdale, where Jaidi was arrested this week. Estrella remains at large.
According to Berman, the domestic workers were allegedly paid significantly less than the minimum salary required by state law and forced them to work more than 40 hours a week regularly. They also denied the domestic workers benefits that were set forth in their employment contracts. Additionally, the domestic workers were forced to surrender their passports.
“As alleged, the defendants abused our nation’s process for admitting consular officials in order to bring domestic workers into this country for their own monetary gain and lifestyle,” Berman said. “On top of that, Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi exploited these workers by not providing them the critical protections and benefits they would have been entitled to had they been properly brought to this country with the appropriate visas. Today’s charges demonstrate that fraud and abuse of this type will not be tolerated.”
Jaidi, 60, and Estrella, 55, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, one count of conspiracy to induce aliens to illegally come to, enter and reside in the United States, and one count of making materially false statements. No return court date has been scheduled.
U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service Director Christian Schurman said, “DSS demonstrated its commitment to protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of foreign nationals visiting the United States. We will continue to pursue those who abuse domestic worker visas to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain. DSS’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
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