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Detroit — A Windsor woman has been indicted by a grand jury in Detroit on charges of alien smuggling and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

In a 21-page indictment, the grand jury alleges Iram Jafri operated a scheme over the last five years to smuggle aliens into the United States through Detroit for money.

Jafri, 37, is accused of creating and soliciting fraudulent documents to facilitate the illegal entry of multiple aliens over the last five years. Prosecutors say Jafri accepted thousands of dollars to her family business, A.J. & Associates Immigration Firm, as payments.

The indictment identifies seven individuals by initials who were allegedly smuggled into the United States by Jafri using layers of fraudulent documents that Jafri created in some cases.

Jafri made an appearance in federal court on Wednesday in Detroit where she was formally arraigned on the indictment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona K. Mazjoub entered a not guilty plea on her behalf and ordered Jafri to remain temporarily detained.

In Jafri’s criminal complaint, Andrew West, a special agent with the U.S. Department of State, alleges from 2011 to the present, Jafri engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain visas for illegal aliens living and working in the United States with the ultimate goal of obtaining permanent residency for them.

In the first stage of the scheme, Jafri illegally obtained H-2A temporary agricultural worker visas for illegal aliens. The H-2A program allows employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill seasonal jobs.

To do this, Jafri allegedly transported multiple illegal aliens from Windsor to the U.S. port of entry in Detroit where she assisted them in entering the United States with the fraudulent paperwork.

After the aliens re-entered the United States with illegal visas, Jafri submitted additional paperwork requesting non-immigrant NAFTA professional visas for some of the aliens, according to the complaint.

In the last stage of the scheme, Jafri claimed her company would obtain a green card for the alien, which would allow he or she to reside in the United States permanently.

Jafri has no criminal record and was born in Canada.

Troy attorney John Freeman represents Jafri and said Wednesday she is still presumed innocent despite the indictment.

“It’s merely an accusation and not evidence. I look forward to representing her,” Freeman said.

Freeman said he is evaluating her detention and may ask a judge to review it.

After a U.S. magistrate judge in Detroit released Jafri on a $100,000 bond last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit appealed arguing Jafri was a flight risk. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith then ordered Jafri immediately detained after reviewing the complaint.

Goldsmith said the family business, which is an immigration consulting firm, has offices in Canada, Lebanon, Syria, India, Mexico and Bolivia and such connections would make it easy for her to establish a new home.

“The government correctly points out that the defendant’s character is highly suspect. The complaint details numerous episodes of illegal smuggling facilitated through the use of fraudulent documents that were prepared or solicited by defendant,” Goldsmith wrote in his order on Tuesday.

“Further, the government presented strong evidence that defendant submitted a fraudulent application for child welfare benefits to Canada, demonstrating that lying may well be a way of life for defendant.”

West said law enforcement officials have reviewed nearly 100 H-2A applications in which Jafri or her company was named on the forms. Investigators determined Jafri filed several of these applications on behalf of U.S. employers in Texas and Kansas that falsely state if the petition was approved, the alien would enter from Mexico or Canada to begin new employment.

Prosecutors allege Jafri knew the alien was already present in the United States working for the U.S. employers on a permanent basis.

In cases where Detroit was to be the point of entry, prosecutors say Jafri instructed aliens to travel with spouses and non-U.S. children to Detroit, leaving their vehicle in the Detroit area before crossing the border to Canada.

Once at her immigration firm, Jafri told the aliens to remove any documents, credit cards and currency linking the aliens to the United States so their residence in the United States would not be detected by U.S. border agents, the complaints says.

Jafri allegedly demanded a cash payment for her to take the alien and family to the U.S. border and to talk to U.S. officials on their behalf. In one case, she was paid $13,625 for bringing three aliens into the United States, and $5,200 for bring one in, West said.

Witness and bank records show Jafri received payment from U.S. employers and illegal aliens in return for fraudulently obtaining non-immigrant alien registration forms called I-94s.

Federal prosecutors allege that Jafri created fake recruitment-related letter to the U.S. Department of Labor, cover letters with H-2A applications with false statements, fraudulent visa applications and fraudulent documents to qualify a business as an alien supervisor.

The offense of alien smuggling for purposes of illegal gain is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

JChambers@detroitnews.com

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