Man Jailed For Immigration Fraud

OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City resident this week was sentenced in federal court to 18 months in prison for immigration fraud after pleading guilty in December to a five-year scheme during which he assisted as many as 70 foreign nationals gain asylum in the U.S.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge James Brednar sentenced Gasim Manafov, 36, of Ocean City, to 18 months in federal prison followed by a year of supervised release for conspiring to commit immigration fraud. According to a plea agreement reached in December, from 2007 to 2012, Manafov conspired with other in assisting roughly 70 individuals in fraudulently applying for asylum benefits in the U.S. and received around $210,000 in return for his assistance in the process.

In many of the cases, Manafov provided foreign nationals on work visas in Ocean City and throughout the region with fake stories describing how the applicants’ families were hurt or killed in their native countries because of their political affiliations and helped them prove to U.S. authorities they would face the same fate if they were forced to go back to their homelands.

According to court documents, Manafov would provide those he was assisting with falsified foreign documents proving the fake stories to assist individuals living and working in the U.S. on limited work visas to stay in this country including false hospital records and death certificates. Manafov also arranged fake marriages for foreign nationals living and working in the resort area and around the region and on some occasions even staged phony marriages to accomplish the ruse.

At different times throughout the five-year scam, Manafov often prepped applicants for their hearings before U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials. On some occasions, Manafov even attended and testified on behalf of the applicants himself.

In one particular case, Manafov referred a female applicant for asylum to a co-conspirator knowing that they would engage in a fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes. In that case, when Manafov felt the net of scrutiny closing on him from the Baltimore USCIS office, he moved that case to the USCIS office in Miami and coached the phony couple on how to lie to officials interviewing them. Manafov was well paid for providing the services to the tune of $210,000 in traceable proceeds.

“Benefit fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the U.S. under the guise of legitimacy,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Ocean City resident agent in charge Francis McGarvey this week. “HSI will work with our partners at USCIS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in an effort to maintain the integrity of the immigration system by vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals like Gasim Manafov who try to exploit the asylum process.”