Arrests Made In Alleged Immigration Scam Involving Fake Armed Robberies Across US

Two New York City men have been arrested and charged with orchestrating a nationwide scam involving staged armed robberies at convenience stores and fast food restaurants to help immigrant “victims” obtain special visas, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, face one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud for their alleged role in the scheme, which began in March 2023 and involved at least eight fake robberies.

According to prosecutors, the staged robberies followed a similar pattern: a “robber” would threaten a store clerk with an apparent firearm, grab cash from the register in view of surveillance cameras and then flee the scene. The store clerks, who were the supposed victims, would wait at least five minutes before reporting the crime to police.

Patel allegedly paid store owners to use their businesses for the fake robberies, while the “victims” paid Patel to participate in the scheme. The purpose of the staged crimes was to make the store clerks eligible for a special “U visa,” which allows immigrant crime victims who assist in prosecuting criminals to remain in the country for four years.

If convicted, both Patel and Singh face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The arrests highlight the lengths some immigrants may go to secure legal status in the United States.