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Lawyer Gets 8 Years in Visa Fraud Case

August 28, 2003

MIAMI (AP) _ An immigration lawyer was sentenced to more than eight years in prison Thursday as part of a massive visa fraud investigation involving people cleared to enter the country as religious ministers or multinational executives.

Javier Lopera was convicted in May of fraud and conspiracy. A Bolivian national and Brazilian citizen, he faces deportation when released from prison.

The case began as an investigation into 100 suspicious visa applications and expanded to as many as 7,000 applications involving Lopera.

Lopera, 36, charged clients $4,000 to $5,000 each, but investigator Ronnie Thomas said the scams weren’t all about money.

``It was about arrogance of getting something through the system,″ he said. ``He had his money coming in, but he loved the challenge.″

Lopera told the judge his prosecution was a major personal crisis.

``I feel very, very sorry for everything I have done, but I feel worse about everyone who has been affected by this case,″ he said.

Veronica Traylor, acting assistant director of the U.S. Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services in Dallas, testified the center had not encountered a fraud of that magnitude before.

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