SEATTLE (AP) — A Texas man has been sentenced to three years in prison after scamming immigrants by saying he could get them legal status for money.

Federal prosecutors in Seattle say that from late 2011 until spring 2015, 50-year-old Alejandro Gurany of El Paso falsely claimed to work for a government immigration office. Investigators identified more than 30 people in Washington state and Ohio who were cheated out of $140,000, but they suspect there were additional victims because more than $400,000 in cash was funneled into his bank account from at least seven states.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says that at one point he met with immigrants at an airport hotel near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took their photographs and fingerprints.

In sentencing Gurany on Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik accepted his claim that he did it to pay off Mexican cartels that had threatened his family. But the judge told him that was no excuse for preying on other vulnerable families.