Charged with trying to rig the US working visa program in Brazil, 11 Brazilians have been arrested in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná and Santa Catarina. The police, which carried out Operation Anarchy to catch the suspects, accuse them of being part of an international ring specialized in taking Brazilians illegally to the United Sates.
The American consulate in São Paulo estimates that the gang raised US$ 52 million in seven years, in what they see as one of the biggest cases of visa fraud in US history. The US consulate informed that the crackdown occurred simultaneously in Brazil and in the United States, but would not disclose any arrest made in the United States.
Among those arrested is Márcio de Castro Ferreira, named by authorities as one the main recruiters of workers in Brazil. Police agents from São Paulo and Minas Gerais went to Ferreira's house in Uberlândia, in the state of Minas, and seized about 60 boxes of documents.
At least 4,500 Brazilian used the scheme, which started in 2002, and promised a temporary job in the United States (H2B visa) at a cost of up to US$ 15,000. Those taken into custody were charged with conspiracy and fraud. According to the American consulate in São Paulo, there is also evidence of money laundering.
The joint work of the Brazilian and American authorities was made possible by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). This effort included the sharing of information between Brazil's GAECO (Special Action Group for the Repression of Organized Crime) and Orlando's Prosecuting office, which allowed simultaneous investigative action in both countries.
There were two search and seizure warrants in the state of Mato Grosso, in the Brazilian Midwest. In the United States police searched for evidence. Although not part of this investigation it was also found other fraudulent schemes in which Brazilians were taken to Russia, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Romania and the United Arab Emirates,.
The investigation started in 2003, when the US Consulate's anti-fraud sector in São Paulo detected irregularities. In 2008, the consulate contacted the Public Attorney's Office, which started its own investigating.
That same year it was created a taskforce with the participation of São Paulo's Department of Public Safety, the Public Attorney's Office, the judiciary, US consulate, Internal Revenue Service and São Paulo state's Finance Secretariat.
The Public Ministry infiltrated the operation and used court-approved phone taps and access to bank accounts to do its work. International agencies were also involved in the probe.
People who were victims of the scheme are encouraged to contact GAECO via their email: firstname.lastname@example.org