- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

Federal authorities have seized more than a half-million dollars from the bank accounts of a Silver Spring-based company whose employees were recently charged with fraudulently helping illegal aliens into the country.

The purported scam involved using identifying information from former clients without their permission to help illegal aliens get work visas to enter the country, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for the company, Overseas Employment and Information Services, have petitioned a federal judge in Baltimore to allow the return of the funds, saying the money is needed forlegal defense.

The request comes weeks after the U.S. attorney in Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein, announced in May the indictment of three company employees on immigration-fraud charges.

“The indictment alleges that the defendants earned $1 million from illegal aliens in return for submitting false documents to the Department of Homeland Security,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

The company, which primarily provided immigration services to Chinese and Korean clients, had been in business for more than 30 years and operated a Los Angeles-based office under the name EBI Inc., court records show.

Recent court records show the company closed after authorities seized $503,000 from two company bank accounts. The government also had previously seized more than $130,000 from the company, including 46 money orders and a $15,000 personal check.

Company attorneys could not be reached for comment, but have asked a judge to lift a stay in civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which prosecutors seized the business’s funds.

“The government has stated that it will oppose this motion but it has not offered — and cannot offer — any evidence that lifting the stay will adversely affect a related criminal investigation,” lawyer Steven Barentzen wrote in a recent memo filed in federal court in Baltimore.

Mr. Barentzen also said the defendants in the criminal case — Tricia Matuszak, 35, and Mindy Song, 43, both of Los Angeles, and Yong Mi-Chang, 34, of South Korea — would not have faced federal charges but for the investigation into EBI.

He said company officials think the defendants will be “fully” vindicated and want to support their legal defense, but cannot do so now because the seized funds constitute all of the company’s remaining assets.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Chan Park last month argued the company’s attempt to seek the return of the money through the civil court could affect the government’s criminal case.

Occasionally, prosecutors will seize assets in civil court before bringing criminal charges. The move is usually meant to ensure money will remain available for the government to recoup if defendants are convicted.

Mr. Park argued that “broad discovery” in the civil case could affect the prosecution of the criminal case. He had previously argued for a stay in the civil case pending the criminal investigation.

Prosecutors stated in a separate legal memo that since at least 1998 OEIS in Silver Spring and EBI in Los Angeles submitted dozens of “false and fraudulent” documents with the Department of Homeland Security to help aliens get green cards.

In addition to money seized from bank accounts and checks, prosecutors also have sought the forfeiture of two properties in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

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