Man who lied about being immigration official, bilked millions from victims must repay them, serve prison time

Published 12:06 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A Honduras man who was living in Florida has been sentenced to federal prison for his part in a massive immigration fraud scheme involving more than 425 victims including Alabama.

According to court documents, Franklin Javier Perez-Rios, age 29, orchestrated a fraud scheme from 2017 through 2023 in which he claimed to be able to provide immigration-related services to foreign nationals living in the United States.

As part of this scheme, Perez-Rios, who had no legitimate qualifications, pretended at various times to be a current United States government official, a former United States government official, an immigration attorney, a paralegal, or other immigration services professional.

Believing that Perez-Rios could help them gain lawful status in the United States, hundreds of victims in Florida, Alabama, and at least 14 other states paid Perez-Rios thousands of dollars each for what they believed were legitimate, legal immigration services.

Foreign national victims hired Perez-Rios with the hope that he could help them achieve legal status after years of residing in the United States.

Perez-Rios did not obtain status for any of the victims as he promised.

Rather, he routinely filed asylum paperwork with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) on the victims’ behalf, and then told them that they had to travel to California with him where they were subject to medical examinations and vaccinations.

Neither the medical examinations nor the trips to California were legitimately part of the asylum process. For other victims, Perez-Rios filed no paperwork on their behalf despite saying he would. To keep the victims believing he was working on their behalf, Perez-Rios provided them with forged documentation supposedly from the United States Government.

These forged documents led many victims to believe that they had obtained legal status in the United States when, in fact, they had not.

Victims paid Perez-Rios several thousand dollars each, often in cash, for his sham immigration services. Victims were falsely led to believe that much of this money consisted of “fees” that they had to pay to the United States government, including a fictitious “forgiveness fee” for illegally entering the United States. Perez-Rios profited at least $2.8 million dollars from victims during this scheme, and he used this money for gambling and to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Approximately 50 victims attended Perez-Rios’s sentencing hearing on March 8, and many explained to U.S. District Court Judge Kristi DuBose how this scheme affected them.

Most victims were from Spanish speaking countries, and they believed that Perez-Rios was one of their own, someone they could trust in their efforts to obtain legal status.

The victims explained that Perez-Rios preyed on this trust and exploited their naivete concerning the actual immigration process. Many victims missed important deadlines to apply for asylum because they believed Perez-Rios was doing so on their behalf. All the victims who spoke at the sentencing hearing described how Perez-Rios abused their trust.

Perez-Rios pleaded guilty to nine counts of wire fraud associated with the scheme, and the United States recommended a sentence at the high end of the advisory guidelines range. Judge DuBose agreed with the United States’ recommendation and sentenced Perez-Rios to 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Judge DuBose entered a forfeiture money judgment against Perez-Rios for over $2.8 million, representing the amount of illegal proceeds obtained from his scheme. Perez-Rios was also ordered to pay nearly $2.5 million dollars in restitution to victims of his scheme.

“This defendant exploited vulnerable victims and abused their trust, twisting the United States immigration process to his own selfish ends,” said United States Attorney Sean P. Costello. “Working with our partners in law enforcement, we will bring to justice anyone who tries to take advantage of the immigration system to line their own pockets.”

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mobile and Pensacola led this investigation in collaboration with USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS). Several other agencies assisted HSI in this investigation including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) Office of Field Operations, United States Border Patrol (USBP) Mobile Station, Pensacola Police Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin D. Kopf and Christopher J. Bodnar prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Gordon and Ryan Love of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida also assisted in the successful prosecution of this case.

If you believe Perez-Rios filed an application on your behalf, you can call the USCIS Customer Service hotline at 1-800-375-5283 and inquire on the status of your immigration application.

The hotline is operational from 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) Monday through Friday. If you know your Alien Registration number (also referred to as your A Number) and/or receipt number, you can check the status of your case online at You should also update your contact information for any pending applications with USCIS. Information on how to update your address with USCIS can be found at