Lawyer gets 30 months in green-card scam

Posted: January 12, 2012

A prominent Huntingdon Valley lawyer was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in a federal lockup in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain "green cards" for immigration clients.

Michael Choi, 56, was convicted by a federal jury in August of conspiracy to violate immigration laws, making false statements to the government and filing false tax returns for the years 2005 and 2006.

U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker also ordered Choi to make restitution to the IRS of $161,539.

Prosecutors said Choi abused a program which grants "green cards" for permanent U.S. residency to undocumented workers whose employers can certify they have skills not otherwise available in the labor force.

At trial, three employers who were co-defendants with Choi, testified that they arranged for Choi's former immigration clients to fraudulently get green cards so they could remain in the U.S.

The employers and Choi's former wife and office manager, Sandra Oh, testified that Choi provided cash and legal services to business owners, including the co-defendants, to induce them to sign petitions falsely stating that their business intended to employ Choi's immigration clients.

The trial evidence included tape recordings of meetings and conversations between Choi and a fourth business owner who, unbeknownst to Choi, was cooperating with the government.

Choi, who was chairman of the Pennsylvania Governor's Advisory Commission on Asian-American Affairs, has been in federal custody since April.

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