Chicago/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 17, 2024
Alleged Hollywood-Style Visa Fraud Scheme: Six Charged for Faking Armed Robberies in Chicago and BeyondSource: Unsplash/Tingey Injury Law Firm

Chicago has hit the headlines again, not for its usual streak of organized crime, but for a scheme that sounds like it's been ripped right off a movie script. Federal authorities have charged six individuals with staging fake armed robberies across Chicago and surrounding suburbs, with the endgame of fraudulently securing U.S. immigration visas, as reported by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois.

The plan, which sounds like it could have come straight from a low-budget crime thriller if it weren’t real, involved individuals acting as phony robbers using what appeared to be firearms to threaten the supposed victims during staged heists at local businesses including restaurants, coffee shops, and gas stations, even hitting spots as far out as Rayne, Louisiana and Belvidere, Tennessee the indictment unsealed in federal court states.

Leading the pack are Parth Nayi, 26, and Kewon Young, 31, who orchestrated the phony crimes, and they were joined by a quartet of Patels—Bhikhabhai, Nilesh, Ravinaben, and Rajnikumar—who played along as victims, as detailed in documents from the court. The endgame was to leverage the alleged victim status into applications for U nonimmigrant status, or "U-visas," which are reserved for victims of crimes who have suffered abuse and assist law enforcement efforts, according to the justice department's announcement.

The fake victims, some of whom forked over thousands to Nayi, then sought certifications from local police indicating they'd been crime victims and were helpful in investigations, a crucial step in the U-visa application process, and after getting the certifications some submitted fraudulent U-visa applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the same indictment alleges. While the conspiracy charge dangling over the group calls for a maximum of five years in prison, Ravinaben Patel faces the added heat of an individual false statement charge that could slap an extra ten years on her sentencing card if convicted, the prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew D. Moyer and Saqib M. Hussain find enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in court.