The Star.com reports on a Filipino dry cleaner who is literally taking fellow Filipino migrants ‘to the cleaners’ charging $5000 a time for a Canadian visa.
Gloria Delos Santos will dry clean your dress shirt for $1.99. She promises next day service.
She also claims that for $5,000 she can get an immigration visa to bring your relative to Canada in as little as three months.
The shirt will be delivered on time. Your relatives, not so much. If ever.
A Star investigation shows Santos is running a visa business from her Glory’s Dry Cleaning store in a Scarborough strip mall at Ellesmere and Midland Aves.
Sandwiched between a tattoo parlour and a barber shop, Santos deals mainly with the Filipino community. According to people who have paid for her services, Santos has told them she is connected to an official in the federal immigration department who can expedite the paperwork to bring loved ones to Canada.
A federal law passed earlier this year makes it illegal for anyone other than lawyers, paralegals or licensed immigration consultants to provide advice or make any representation at any stage of an immigration proceeding. Dry cleaners are not on the list.
But three Filipino nationals who agreed to pay an average of $5,000 to Santos (two paid the amount, another made a $500 deposit before getting cold feet) say they have nothing to show for their money. Santos, they say, gave them receipts and promised a full refund if things didn’t work out. But when they tried to get their money back, they met with a wall of excuses.
The Star followed the money trail and found several people, each pointing fingers at the other over the missing money.
Three of the victims have filed a complaint with Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander, who they say pledged to pass the information to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office. (Alexander did not respond to an interview request from the Star.)
Some victims have sought legal advice. One has taken his case to the Philippines consulate, which recommended he call the police.
In an interview, Santos acknowledged she took money in some cases but says she passed it on others to handle the immigration applications.
“They only give me money to give to her,” said Santos, who described herself as a conduit for immigration payments.
Santos is angry that people who provided money think she has done something wrong. “This is wrong statement. I can sue them for accusing me,” she said.
There is no proof, she said, that “I get that money to put in my pocket.”
Santos also said she does not know anyone in the federal immigration department and never claimed she did.
The Star spoke to three people who said they paid money to Santos.
One of them, Reynaldo Garcia, said he went into Glory’s Dry Cleaning to get his laundry and came out agreeing to pay $5,500 to bring son-in-law Jerold Panganiban, a civil engineer, here from New Zealand. But more than a year after he started making the monthly payments Santos cannot give him proof that any work was ever done on his son-in-law’s file. He is demanding his money back.
“Gloria told me that if I paid this money she could have Jerold here in three or four months,” said Garcia, a building superintendent. “She said she knew someone in immigration who could make this thing go fast for Jerold.”
Garcia said he then asked Santos for proof that she had filed the application. Santos said there was none because “they are dealing directly with someone inside immigration.”
Ilda Tamayo, a caregiver also awaiting permanent resident status, said she too fell for Santos’ promises and paid $4,500 in a bid to bring her brother, Alex Seguido, over from Saudi Arabia, where he works as an engineer with that country’s largest phone company.
“Gloria said she knew someone in Immigration and she could do this fast,” Tamayo said. “When I asked for my money back, she said she was going to put me in the court, that nobody will believe me and that I will waste all my money on lawyers.”
In an interview, Santos denied suggestions she is involved in an immigration scam.
Confronted by the Star with the allegations (plus copies of the receipts she gave Garcia, Tamayo and others), Santos acknowledged she received money in two cases (Garcia and Tamayo) but said she turned it all over to two people who were supposed to find sponsors for these would-be immigrants.
“I try to help them and now they are accusing me,” an agitated Santos said. “They can’t prove that I took that money to put it in my pocket. I didn’t keep the money. I help them.”
Santos would not say how many people she has helped in such way, but says many of those seeking her help are out of status in Canada — meaning they overstayed their work permits.
Santos says she did not charge anything for her service and actually put in $3,000 of her own money in the Garcia and Tamayo cases.
One thing is certain. None of the immigrant hopefuls who were supposed to benefit from this laundromat operation have yet to set foot in Canada.
“I think the whole thing is a scam,” Alex Seguido told the Star from Saudi Arabia.
Weeks after his sister paid the money, Seguido received a request from an obscure email address for personal information and a resumé.
The email espouses the many benefits of immigration to Canada, including a “world-class medical system free for its citizens,” pension benefits and a Canadian passport that is “world recognized.” It also asks Seguido to pass on the email to anyone else interested in immigrating to Canada.
The email does not bear the name of any company, firm or individual other than “Administration office.” It claims Seguido would receive a response from an “immigration law office” after upon completion of his assessment.
When months passed and nothing happened, Seguido wrote to the email address requesting a full refund of the $4,500 paid by his sister on his behalf.
He got a snarky response: “Please be very clear that we have never spoken with you and no payment was ever requested from you via this email address directly or indirectly or ever received via this email referral service. Please get in direct contact with the person whom you initially made your payments who must be accountable to you.”
Only licensed immigration consultants, paralegals and lawyers can legally do immigration work. The federal government’s “Cracking Down on Crooked Immigration Consultants” Bill C-35, which became law this summer, calls for penalties of up to $100,000 for anyone providing unauthorized immigration representation at any stage of the process.
“Crooked immigration consultants pose a threat not only to their victims, but also to the integrity of our immigration system,” Kenney said of the new legislation. “We are targeting undeclared ghost consultants as well as other unscrupulous immigration representatives who are engaging in unacceptable activity.”
Meanwhile, back at Glory’s Dry Cleaners, Gloria Santos sits ready to handle all your dry cleaning needs. Hemming your pants is a minimum $7, she says, cracking her trademark smile. Maybe $10, depending on the amount of work.
“I don’t do immigration,” she insists. “I’m not doing that. No, no, no, no. Never.” Source: The Star.com
Earlier this year a series of television ads warning would-be immigrants against crooked immigration consultants is being blasted by a lobby group for consultants.
The ads, running in English, French, Urdu, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Punjabi, warn that consultants cannot guarantee that immigration applications will be approved, cannot make an application fool-proof or ensure your spouse will get into or be able to migrate to Canada.
The ads urge people to ensure their immigration consultant is honest and refers viewers to a government website.
There are similar bogus advisers operating in the UK and other countries. They are usually part-time ‘jack of all trades’ (master of none) fixers who promise the earth in order to extract money from vulnerable, gullible migrants.
In the UK it is ILLEGAL to give immigration advice without being regulated by one of the authorised bodies for instance, the OISC or Law Society.
Yet every day crooks get away with these crimes, taking migrants money under false pretences never to be seen again. In most cases immigration applications are either botched or not even submitted.
Unfortunately, the police do not seem to want to know about these blatant crimes and will usually refer the fraud to the regulatory body such as the OISC, which lacks the resources to track down and prosecute fake advisers.
Under Canadian law, it is also illegal to charge migrants to arrange a job.
Whether you are in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or the UK, the advice is: always use qualified, authorised or regulated immigration advisers.
If you need UK immigration advice, make sure you use an OISC registered immigration adviser or a specialist immigration lawyer. OISC qualified immigration advisers must be competent before they can practice and remain competent by undertaking annual CPD and training.
Some advisers, such Bison UK, offer an initial consultation service where you can sit down and discuss your problem with a qualified adviser.
My Immigration Consultant is designed to guide you *step By Step* towards successfully migrating To Canada.