Local attorney sentenced to six years in prison for immigration fraud

An Indianapolis-area attorney who pleaded guilty to fraud and identity theft was sentenced Friday to more than six years in federal prison.

Joel Paul, 45, of Fishers pleaded guilty in November to one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana also sentenced Paul to serve three years of supervised release after his 75-month prison sentence, and to pay up to $750,000 in restitution to his victims.

Paul worked for one or more law firms in the Indianapolis area between 2013 and March 2017, according to court documents.

According to charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the case involved an immigration benefit known as the U visa. U visas can be granted to certain crime victims who help authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

In July 2013, court papers say, Paul helped 13 clients secure legitimate U visa credentials. He then used paperwork from those cases to submit fraudulent U visa applications on behalf of more than 250 other clients. Paul charged those clients about $3,000 per application. The Department of Justice said the victims weren't aware that Paul was acting illegally.

Paul faced up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charges alone.

“Immigration fraud undermines not only the public’s faith in our institutions and the legal profession, it also jeopardizes public safety and compromises national security,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in written comments.  “Attorneys who commit such egregious fraud on our legal system and their own clients will be held accountable.”

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