On Friday, two men from NYC carried out several fake armed robberies of fast food restaurants and convenience stores across the United States in their efforts to obtain immigration benefits. Federal prosecutors announced that the two suspects identified as Balwinder Singh, 39, and Rambhai Patel, 36, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
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The scheme allowed “victims” of the robberies to enroll for a special immigration visa that allows them access to various benefits including medical assistance, cash assistance, job placement, educational grants, and other services.
Authorities have stated Singh and Patel are responsible for “at least eight” fake robberies, which consisted of someone threatening store clerks with a firearm before taking off with all the cash in the registers.
Prosecutors also believe the duo began their scheme back in March of 2023, claiming they required the cooperation of the store clerks to wait “five minutes or longer” before calling the police. Investigators uncovered how the “victims” of each theft paid Patel for his part in the prank.
It’s apparent the clerks, owners, or both, were involved in the fraud, which would’ve allowed them the opportunity to apply for the coveted special immigration visa — which can extend their stay in the United States for an additional four years, but only if they are “subjected to mental or physical abuse.”
According to The Center For Immigration Studies (CIS), the specialized visa was created to “ostensibly aid in the prosecution of crimes.” Patel, who was arrested in Seattle, will remain in custody until the trial begins, and Singh was apprehended in Queens and has reportedly made an appearance in a Boston federal court.
The two men have been charged with immigration fraud, which is a federal offense that can result in the denial of naturalization, a $250,000 fine, up to 25 years behind bars, and deportation if convicted.
Despite being well intended, committing immigration fraud of any kind is not only disrespectful to the United States, but it unfairly undermines the legal immigration process, poses a risk to national security, and ultimately erodes the trust between citizens and their country’s ability to govern and regulate its immigration policies.