A 60-year-old woman pretended to be a lawyer and promised people she could help them stay in the U.S. legally. It turns out that everything was a DACA application scam, and authorities say that the woman may have victimized hundreds, if not thousands, of people who could now be at risk for deportation.
The police have arrested the fake attorney Melva Washington and is now being held in the Gwinnett County Jail.
The lie has been unraveled when Gwinnett County Police detectives got a call from a local immigration attorney Charles Kuck on February 6 reporting that a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application scam is being operated inside the Anointed Vision Church which Washington also ran.
After the said call, a detective working on the case met with two victims who said Washington took money from them but failed to accomplish anything to dix their immigration status. One of the victims also informed the authorities that several documents in his application were forged and contained false information.
Kuck called Washington a “fraud machine” who needs to go to jail and stay there for a long time.
DACA is an immigration policy that allows some people who entered the country as minors and remained in the U.S. illegally to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit. DACA was introduced during the Obama administration. President Trump strongly expressed during the heated presidential campaign that he is not in favor of continuing the program.
Detectives from Gwinnett County working on the case said Washington advertised heavily in the Hispanic community, claiming to the members that she could help people apply for DACA. She charged anywhere from $500 and $1000 per applicant. After taking their money, however, Washington never delivered on her promises. She is also alleged to have forged documents including baptismal certificates, high school certificates and others, in many cases she didn’t even have to tamper with the said documents as a good number of her victims were qualified for DACA, anyway.
Washington did not only limit her scamming ways with the immigration “help center”, she also ran a day care program and a tax preparation center which are both illegal, too. Police also did surveillance work on Washington’s church, but they never once saw a service.
Washington is facing charges of forgery, writing false statements and unauthorized practice of law.