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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Victimizing in God's name 

Pastor Ruy Silva, Pastor Emma Gerald, and others have been indicted over an immigration issue, as reported in the Brockton News and elsewhere:

A church pastor and five others face charges they took more than $200,000 from illegal immigrants in exchange for helping them gain amnesty by lying about when they entered the United States.

An indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court in Atlanta says one of the defendants, Emma Gerald, used money from the scam to buy a home and a Mercedes.

Gerald and the others held meetings related to the scam in Brockton, Mass.; Boca Raton, Fla.; and at least twice at a Marietta, Ga., church where co-defendant Ruy Silva was the pastor, the indictment says.

According to prosecutors, Gerald cast herself as an immigration consultant and charged illegal immigrants, mostly from Brazil, as much as $1,100 per married couple for help falsifying applications under the Catholic Social Services Amnesty Program.

Applicants are eligible for temporary legal residence if they lived in the U.S. unlawfully during a certain period and met other requirements.

The indictment says Gerald and her co-defendants encouraged ineligible immigrants to apply for amnesty under the program and guided them through the process, all the while telling them that the Department of Homeland Security did not have records to prove they were lying.

The six _ Gerald, Ruy Silva, Denise Silva, Marcos Amador, Douglas Ross and Hudson Araujo _ are charged with conspiracy to defraud....

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the following:


Atlanta, GA - EMMA GERALD, 54, of Kennesaw, RUY BRASIL SILVA, 49, of Roswell, MARCOS AMADOR, 19, of Atlanta, DENISE SILVA, 45, of Roswell, DOUGLAS ROSS, 29, of Marietta, and HUDSON ARAUJO, 27, of Brockton, Massachusetts, were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 9, 2006, on charges of conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to reside unlawfully in the United States and to make false statements in applications presented to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). EMMA GERALD, RUY BRASIL SILVA, and MARCOS AMADOR are charged in separate counts for making false statements in applications presented to DHS. EMMA GERALD is also charged with two counts of money laundering.

ROSS was arraigned today in Atlanta. ARAUJO was taken into custody by federal
agents in Brockton, Massachusetts, and had his initial appearance in federal court in Boston today. DENISE SILVA is a fugitive being sought by federal law enforcement authorities. GERALD, RUY BRASIL SILVA, and AMADOR were indicted on related charges on
February 14, 2006. GERALD was released on a secured bond and RUY BRASIL SILVA
and AMADOR are in custody. Their arraignments on this indictment have not yet been

United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said, “The six individuals indicted in this
conspiracy were involved in a multi-state scheme to solicit immigrants who were illegally present in the United States to file fraudulent applications for amnesty with the Department of Homeland Security. The defendants, as part of a money making scheme, allegedly assisted immigrants who did not meet legitimate amnesty program requirements to file applications containing false statements. This office is committed to vigorous investigation and prosecution of schemes such as this one, as part of the President’s initiative to strengthen enforcement of the Nation’s immigration laws.”

“Not only did these individuals seek to exploit our legal immigration system for
personal financial gain, they used their positions as religious leaders to prey upon the immigrant community," said Ken Smith, Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE's office of
Investigations in Atlanta....

According to United States Attorney Nahmias, the charges and other information
presented in court: EMMA GERALD, the pastor of a local church, held herself out as a
consultant to aliens seeking amnesty in the United States. GERALD did business under the name “EJ Consulting Services.” Under a program known as the “Catholic Social
Services/Lulac/Newman Amnesty Program” (the “CSS Amnesty Program”), certain aliens
who were illegally in the United States were eligible to apply for temporary residence in this country. In order to be eligible, an alien had to meet certain requirements, including having been present in the United States unlawfully from prior to January 1982; and having previously applied for temporary residence but having been turned down because the alien left and re-entered the United States without the permission of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

GERALD conducted meetings at Marietta churches to solicit aliens, largely Brazilian
nationals who were illegally present in the United States, to apply for the CSS Amnesty Program. RUY BRASIL SILVA was a pastor of one of the churches and made it available to GERALD for the meetings....

GERALD charged the aliens between $300 per person/ $500 per married couple to approximately $600 per person/ $1100 per married couple. For an extra fee, GERALD and AMADOR would provide the aliens with letters falsely stating that they
met the program requirements as to length of residence and previous application for amnesty....

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, quoting from the Boston Globe, was criticizing "Pastor Emma's" activities back in December 2005 (emphasis mine):

A woman from Georgia -- ''Pastor Emma," she called herself -- promised to show immigrants how they could remain in the United States legally under a 1986 amnesty law. So several hundred undocumented Brazilians flocked to the Radisson Hotel Brockton to hear her pitch.

Each of them handed over between $60 and $100 -- cash only, no refunds -- and listened intently to what Pastor Emma Gerald had to say. With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation and two Portuguese translators, she told them that, for the low price of $675 -- cash only, no refunds -- she would guide them through the application process and send their forms to the Department of Homeland Security for them.

Several people handed over the money, said Fausto Da Rocha, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center, who attended one of the sessions. He and others say that Gerald deceived the immigrants, that the scheme was illegal, and that she may have put the Brazilians at greater risk of being arrested by immigration authorities by sending their applications to Homeland Security.

''We want to stop this kind of thing," Da Rocha said. ''It's not fair to push people to make a wrong petition. And she uses God's name. She tells them, 'You are here because God wants you to be here,' to push people to believe they should do a fake thing."

A few in the crowd who understood the complexities of immigration law did not like what Gerald had to say. They stood up and tried to explain to their hopeful compatriots that the 1986 amnesty provision could not apply to them. Gerald allegedly referred to her critics as ''Satans" and ''demons," and demanded that they be cast out of the room....

After he attended one of Gerald's meetings a few weeks ago, Da Rocha went on a radio program to dissuade listeners from giving her money. He said Gerald then called him and threatened to sue him for a million dollars. Da Rocha tried calling police and the attorney general's office, he said, but they told him there was little they could do....

Neither the attorney general's office nor Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, responded to requests for comment on Gerald yesterday....

The immigrants may have put themselves at great risk by following Gerald's instructions, said immigration attorney Harvey Kaplan....

If authorities did catch up with Gerald and moved to press charges, the people who fell for her pitch would be at even greater risk for deportation, Kaplan said, because a fraud investigation would open all of her records to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers....

But Wizbang isn't that sympathetic to the people who gave their money to Pastor Emma:

It's an old aphorism, and for the most part it's true: most scams are dependent on the greed of the victim. They are convinced that they are getting something for nothing, or something for a lot less than it's worth, and they are blinded to the truth....

I was reminded of that little lesson when I read this story, about a woman who told illegal aliens that she could help them become legal -- for a fee, of course....

The fun part is, once they've filed the paperwork, the government is aware of them and they are at higher risk for arrest and deportation. But by that time, Pastor Emma and her ill-gotten gains (cash only, and no refunds, of course) will be long gone, on to the next batch of illegal aliens to fleece.

But there may be another deception that's being played. I performed an Internet search for Georgia churches pastored by Emma Gerald or Ruy Silva and could not find a single reference to any such church. Apparently they had very small congregations. Or all of the members were green and had names like Franklin and Jackson.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Was the 1:19:56 post disgusting? :)

Not quite as bad as the priest-child sex scandals and subsequent cover-ups, but still an abuse of power. The whole "Satan"/"demon" thing was especially disturbing.
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