PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A federal grand jury in Providence, R.I., returned a 26-count indictment on Tuesday charging Nimon Naphaeng, 34, a native and citizen of Thailand, who currently resides in Wakefield, R.I., with allegedly running an immigration fraud scheme which allegedly included the filing of false asylum applications on behalf of individuals who did not request nor authorize the applications.
The indictment is announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Matthew J. Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for New England.
According to the indictment and information presented to the court, it is alleged that between January 2014 and December 2015, Naphaeng advertised on the Internet and in flyers posted at various businesses that he could assist Thai nationals with obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, and, as a result, further government benefits such as a social security number, a driver’s license and, if they qualify, other financial benefits. It is alleged that Naphaeng, without the consent of the applicants, used personal information they provided to him to secure an EAD card to instead file asylum applications in their names. It is alleged that the applicants did not know that Naphaeng was filing asylum claims in order to secure EAD cards.
In order to qualify for asylum, an applicant must establish that they cannot return to their native country based upon persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The applicant must personally sign the application and swear under penalty of perjury that the information is true and correct. An initial asylum application grants the applicant certain benefits while their application is pending, including the issuance of an EAD card.
Nationwide, Thai nationals historically file less than 20 asylum applications each year. According to information presented to the court, this investigation began in January 2015, when immigration officials observed a surge of citizens from Thailand submitting asylum applications. A significant number of the applications allegedly shared the defendant’s home or work address. It is alleged that a review of more than 260 of these asylum applications contained virtually identical asylum claims, factual scenarios and supporting documents.
The indictment returned on Tuesday charges Nimon Naphaeng with seven counts of mail fraud, eight counts of visa fraud, ten counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of international money laundering. The government is also seeking the forfeiture of $279,550 seized from Naphaeng, monies allegedly realized by Naphaeng in the execution of the scheme.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Naphaeng, who was arrested on a criminal complaint on December 22, 2105, is detained in federal custody. A federal arrest warrant was obtained based on information developed by agents investigating this matter that Naphaeng was allegedly planning to leave the United States.
The matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with substantial assistance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Fraud Detection National Security Asylum Office, Newark, N.J., and the Warwick, R.I., Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard W. Rose and Mary E. Rogers.