TAMPA — A Tampa woman faces up to 20 years in federal prison following her guilty plea this week to wire fraud in a scheme where she posed as an immigration attorney and told immigrants she would have them deported if they complained.
Erika Paola Intriago, 44, admitted to swindling at least 55 people of about $54,000. Advertising on social media, prosecutors say, she targeted immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries and their families, promising to help them obtain legal immigration status in the United States. Authorities have said the scheme stretched from Tampa to Chicago.
From December 2014 to April, according to her guilty plea, victims retained Intriago’s company, EPI Services, and paid her in cash, by check or with money orders to represent them before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and other agencies.
After getting the money, Intriago either never filed any paperwork, abandoned the process or didn’t tell the victims that their petitions had been denied. In some cases, she faked emails, letters, receipts and documents from government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security to persuade immigrants that she was working on their behalf. Some faked documents included replicas of official seals used by federal agencies.
In one case, two would-be clients, identified in Intriago’s guilty plea only as E.M.B. and Y.G.C., met with her in Tampa in March 2017 and gave her a check for $750 to cover her fees, plus a blank Amscot money order for $535 to pay fees associated with filing an immigration petition. Both, she said, went into her own bank account.
Weeks went by, so the victims asked Intriago what was happening. She put them off, then sent them a faked email from federal officials with a tracking number belonging to an unrelated petition. The goal, she admitted, was to convince them she had filed their immigration petitions when actually she “had not filed anything on their behalf.”
If victims complained, Intriago — who also has gone by Erika Paola Tepan, Erika Paola Varas and Erika Paola Caraballo — told them she would get them deported by reporting their immigration status to authorities if they didn’t keep quiet.
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times