- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) Four persons were charged with taking money from immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens and then staging bogus naturalization ceremonies complete with fake judges.
A yearlong investigation dubbed Operation Charade led to the arrests Tuesday of Elzbieta Malgorzata Bugajska, 50; John Patrick Bradley, 56; Yolanda Miel Lubiano, 62; and Lorena Velasquez Garcia, 39, a 15-year employee of the Social Security Administration.
Most of the victims were Koreans and Filipinos who were promised that their immigration applications would receive fast-track processing.
The scam included giving victims a quiz on American history and politics and leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance during staged ceremonies, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Cowan said. Some of those who were duped paid as much as $25,000, authorities said.
Immigration and Naturalization Service investigators said victims told them of a swearing-in ceremony at Miss Lubiano's home in October 2000. At the ceremony, Mr. Bradley wore a judge's robe and conferred "citizenship" on 14 persons, authorities said.
Authorities also accused Miss Bugajska of selling immigrants genuine Social Security cards, which they said she obtained from Miss Garcia for $750.
All four defendants are charged with one count of mail fraud, and Miss Bugajska and Mr. Bradley also are charged with impersonating federal judges.
Miss Bugajska, a Polish citizen, is the suspected leader of the scheme. She masqueraded as an immigration consultant named "Jerry Ann Mitchell," Mr. Cowan said.
The indictment charges that the ring defrauded at least 25 immigrants, but investigators say they believe there may be many more.


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