An American businessman who destroyed the dreams of dozen of people hoping for a new life in America has been sentenced to nine years in jail, the Daily Mail reports.
Doug Hall was paid over £3million by British families seeking to move to Florida after claiming he was an immigration expert.
The 61-year-old promised his clients they would be issued with visas to allow them to work in the U.S., but instead pocketed the cash.
Hall, who ran his immigration business from Lakeland in central Florida, offered to help families go through the complicated visa process.
Many of his victims handed over more than £150,000 after being assured that they would get the necessary work permits to set up a new business in Florida.
A total of 27 people all from the UK were duped by Hall, according to prosecutors.
A court heard his Central Florida Visa Group failed to correctly complete the visa applications and they were rejected by the U.S. Embassy in London.
Hall had told his clients their money would be returned if the visas were not issued.
But his victims were shattered to learn Hall had spent the money a luxury home in Florida and other properties abroad.
Among those who lost out was golf club worker Darren Houghton who lost £150,000, which he had given Hall to help by a scuba diving business in southern Florida.
He had sold his home in the hope of starting a new life in America but lost all his money in the visa scam.
Prosecutor Nicole Orr said: ‘Mr Hall created the illusion that the victims would be approved for an immigration visa and that the money was safe.
‘Sometimes a portion of the money was given back. Sometimes none of the money was given back.’
Hall had attracted many of his clients by attending trade shows for people seeking a new life abroad.
Hall pleaded no contest on Friday to 16 counts of grand theft at a court in Bartow, Florida, and he was sentenced by Judge Mark Hofstad today.
As part of a plea deal he will be jailed for nine years and six months and serve 20 years probation. He will also have to pay back more than £750,000 in restitution. Source: Daily Mail.
The U.S. authorities imposed tough sentences for fraud, whether it be immigration related or not, whereas in the UK the police refer immigration linked scams to the OISC (which regulates immigration advice in the UK) to prosecute the fraudster. With the OISC’s limited resources, an investigation can take years and the offender invariably gets off with a slap on the wrist and a non-custodial sentence.
Meanwhile, the fraudster is free to continue taking money under false pretences from unsuspecting migrants.
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 as Evelie Padadac at Bison UK, even offer a free initial consultation where you can sit down and discuss your problem with a qualified adviser.
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