LAFAYETTE – Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced today that a Lafayette man was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for operating a scheme to take money from the families of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees on the false promise that he would provide the ICE detainees assistance in their immigration proceedings.
Edwin Zavala Jr., 24, of Lafayette, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter on one count of wire fraud. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $23,050 restitution. According to the May 25, 2016 guilty plea, from November 2014 to February 2016, Zavala owned and operated a company headquartered in Lafayette that claimed to assist individuals being held in ICE detention centers. Through this company, United Immigration Consulting, later known as National Immigration Services, Zavala would make mass mailings to ICE detention centers around the country advertising his services in representing illegal aliens and assisting them with their immigration problems. Those detainees would then contact family members who would pay Zavala in exchange for promises that Zavala would represent the ICE detainees at deportation hearings, assist them in obtaining work permits, assist them in “bonding out” of detention facilities, and otherwise provide services in immigration-related matters. However, after receiving payments, Zavala would cease communication with the ICE detainees and their family members and fail to render the promised immigration services. The ICE detainees would then generally be deported.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Professional Responsibility and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph prosecuted the case.