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Woman sentenced in LR immigration fraud

by Danielle Kloap | April 3, 2015 at 4:09 p.m.

A Honduran woman living in Little Rock was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for defrauding illegal immigrants by promising services to obtain legal resident status, U.S. attorney Conner Eldridge announced.

Wendy Espinoza, 32, was sentenced to prison on one count of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, and will serve those sentences concurrently, Eldridge said in a news release.

Espinoza will also pay $541,520 in restitution, the release states.

Espinoza carried out a scheme from 2007 to 2014 to defraud illegal immigrants by taking their money in exchange for promised legal advice and services to help them establish legal resident status, Eldridge said.

Espinoza pretended to work for an immigration attorney and told the people she would prepare legitimate immigration documents for a fee, the release states.

She charged immigrants $10,000 for a "state pardon fee" and another $10,000 for a so-called IRS fine, Eldridge said.

If those fees weren't paid, Espinoza threatened the immigrants with arrest, deportation and the loss of custody of their children, the release states.

Investigators found counterfeit documents that resembled fake Social Security Administration and immigration documents Espinoza had been accused of providing to some of the victims, Eldridge said.

Espinoza pleaded guilty to charges in September 2014 and received her sentence from Judge Timothy L. Brooks in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.

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