Two New York City residents have been arrested for allegedly staging multiple fake armed robberies at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants across the United States to scam the immigration system, according to federal prosecutors.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 1, 2024
Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, whose immigration statuses were not clear in the reporting, were arrested on December 13 and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud for their fake robbery scheme, which ultimately allowed the fake “victims” of the robberies to sign up for special immigration visas.
According to federal prosecutors, Patel and Singh carried out “at least eight” fake robberies starting in March 2023. During these incidents, a fake “robber” threatened a store clerk in front of a surveillance camera in the store with what appeared to be a firearm before stealing cash from the register.
Prosecutors went on to explain that the store clerks then needed to wait “five minutes or longer” after the fake “robber” fled the scene before they reported the “crime” to the police. Each of the “victims” of the fake robberies allegedly paid money to Patel so he would carry out the scheme, while Patel paid the store owners to use their shops for the staged crimes. According to prosecutors, the clerks or owners of each of the stores were all allegedly involved in the scheme.
The purpose of the scheme was to give the store clerks the ability to apply for a special “U visa,” which allows immigrants to remain in the United States for an additional four years because they were “subjected to mental or physical abuse.”
According to the Center For Immigration Studies (CIS), the “U visa” was actually meant to “ostensibly aid in the prosecution of crimes” — allowing the immigrant victim of a crime to stay in the country to aid in a legal case.
Singh was detained in Queens, New York, but appeared in a Boston federal court. Patel was arrested in Seattle and was mandated to be held in custody until trial, though he is expected to be transferred to face federal prosecution in Boston in the near future. Singh and Patel are facing a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison upon conviction.