6 charged with staging Chicago robberies to obtain immigration visas

Six people are facing fraud charges for allegedly staging armed robberies in and around Chicago so they could apply for immigration visas, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court Friday.

Parth Nayi, 26, of Woodridge, and Kewon Young, 31, of Mansfield, Ohio, allegedly organized and participated in the staged robberies at restaurants, coffee shops, liquor stores and gas stations in Chicago, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois.

The pair also allegedly committed similar scams in the suburbs of Lombard, Elmwood Park, St. Charles, Hickory Hills, River Grove, Lake Villa and South Holland, and at restaurants in Louisiana and Tennessee, prosecutors said.

During the staged robberies, people acting as robbers approached their fake victims with what appeared to be firearms, and demanded their money and personal belongings, the indictment said.

After the robberies, the purported victims would then file police reports certifying they were victims of a crime, which they then used to submit fraudulent applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for U nonimmigrant status. The U-visa is reserved for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and agree to assist law enforcement with the investigation, prosecutors said.

The indictment alleges Bhikhabhai Patel, 51, of Elizabethtown, Ky., Nilesh Patel, 32, of Jackson, Tenn., Ravinaben Patel, 23, of Racine, Wis., and Rajnikumar Patel, 32, of Jacksonville, Fla., made arrangements with Nayi to be "victims" of the staged robberies so they could submit U-visa applications. Prosecutors said people paid Nayi thousands of dollars to participate in the scam.

All six people named in the indictment are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, punishable by five years in federal prison. Ravinaben Patel was also charged with one count of making a false statement on a visa application, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.