Feds: Fake Attorney Filed More Than 215 Fraudulent Applications for Asylum for Immigrants

TAMPA – A Brandon man has been charged with filing fraudulent applications in connection with immigration cases, according to Maria Chapa Lopez, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

The 25-count indictment against Elvis Harold Reyes, 56, of Brandon, includes eight counts of mail fraud, eight counts of making false statements in immigration documents, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, Reyes faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count of mail fraud, up to 15 years’ imprisonment for each false statement count, and a mandatory, consecutive term of two years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft counts.

According to the indictment, Reyes, who owned and operated EHR Ministries Inc. in Brandon, portrayed himself as an immigration attorney, pastor, accountant, immigration expert, former immigration official, and former federal law enforcement officer. Reyes is not and has never been a licensed attorney.

Reyes targeted undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries who were seeking Florida driver licenses and work authorization. He gave false, inaccurate, and incomplete legal and immigration advice to victims in order to induce them to retain his services and those of EHR Ministries.

Victims retained and paid Reyes to represent them in immigration-related matters before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and other agencies.

Reyes allegedly filed fraudulent immigration applications in the victims’ names, seeking asylum relief and withholding-of-removal protections provided for under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In doing so, Reyes falsified answers to questions in the asylum applications—fabricating stories about threats, persecution, and the applicants’ fear of returning to their native countries.

Officials said Reyes did not inform the victims of the answers that he had provided on their behalf. He also did not inform the victims about the legal, administrative, and other immigration-related consequences that might follow from filing for asylum relief or for Convention Against Torture protection.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

Reyes is believed to have filed more than 215 fraudulent applications, with intended losses to victims exceeding $1 million. Any person who was, or knows of someone who may have been, a possible victim is urged to contact the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or ice.gov.

*Story by Tampa Bay Reporter