​FROM:
Stephen Gibbons, Assistant District Attorney

CONTACT PERSON:
Dale B. Lohman, Deputy District Attorney
Major Fraud Unit
(408) 792-2599    For Release on January 7, 2004       DEFENDANTS HELD TO ANSWER IN IMMIGRATION FRAUD CASE   Defendants Noel Acosta Ramayrat and Mercedes Alcantara will face trial in Superior Court on grand theft, tax evasion and conspiracy charges. They were held to answer on January 6, 2004 following a five-week preliminary hearing before the Honorable Thomas Hastings.   Ramayrat, 52, is charged with seventy-two felony counts: fifty-six counts of grand theft, fourteen counts of tax evasion and two counts of conspiracy to commit unauthorized practice of law and illegal immigration consulting. Alcantara, 46, faces thirty-nine felony counts. Both defendants are charged with taking in excess of $500,000 from the victims pursuant to Penal Code section 186.11(a)(1)/(a)(2).     The defendants owned and operated LICG, Inc. (“Labor and Immigration Consulting Group” or “Legal Immigration and Consulting Group”) located at 586 North First Street in San Jose. The unbonded company  processed labor certification and H1B visa petitions on behalf of primarily Mexican and Filipino clients. The defendants obtained new clients through advertising in local papers, the phone book, seminars, and word of mouth.   Ramayrat, who is not licensed to practice law in California, represented himself as an immigration attorney and gave legal advice to clients. Many of the clients were dishwashers, busboys and kitchen workers who agreed to pay up to six thousand dollars apiece after being promised labor certifications and green cards for which they were unlikely to qualify. The defendants also misrepresented that they could obtain amnesty for clients under a recently-passed immigration law known as 245(i).      The defendants also owned and operated EmpBase, Inc., which they advertised as a placement agency that would find sponsor employers for Filipino professionals whose visa petitions LICG was processing. Victims were lured to the United States with promises of high-paying jobs, but when they arrived, the promised jobs did not exist and the victims were stranded here. In what has been described as a “bait-and-switch” operation, some of the employees were then offered low-paying clerical jobs that violated their immigration petitions.    One local company, Apple Vacations, hired over fifty workers through EmpBase after being assured by the defendants that each of the workers was “legal”. When it was discovered that all were working illegally, they were laid off.   On state tax forms, EmpBase failed to disclose the existence of the employees it had placed at Apple. In addition, the defendants withheld state taxes from the employees’ wages but failed to forward the money to the State of California in violation of state laws. Ramayrat is also alleged to have underreported his 2000 income on his personal California tax return in order to evade taxes. Both defendants are charged with failing to file individual California tax returns for tax year 2001.   The defendants are scheduled for arraignment in Superior Court on January 20, 2004. If convicted, Ramayrat  faces over fifty-seven years in state prison. Alcantara faces over thirty-five years in state prison. Ramayrat remains in custody on one million dollars bail. Alcantara remains in custody on two hundred and fifty thousand dollars bail.   # # #

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