A woman who ran an immigration-services business out of a rundown Oxford Circle storefront pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of mail fraud and identity theft in a scheme that victimized Philadelphia-area immigrants seeking citizenship.
In pleading guilty, Ana Molina admitted that she pretended to be a lawyer, stealing $11,000 from at least seven victims, and filing fraudulent immigration documents with the Department of Homeland Security from 2015 to 2018.
Molina, 56, of Cherry Hill, ran Molina Multilegal Services out of an office on Castor Avenue. Federal authorities said Molina tricked immigrants into believing she was an attorney, and for about $1,500 per case promised them legal help processing their visa petitions, green cards, asylum applications, and other immigration-related documents.
She also illegally took money from her customers, typically $500, in exchange for finding them a “sponsor,” a person who agrees to financially support the immigrant if they are unable to do so themselves. She then stole the identities of former customers, using their bank and tax records to submit forged sponsorship forms to the federal government, authorities said.
“Ana Molina pleaded guilty to defrauding people who were looking for permanent residence status in the United States,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve said after the hearing. “So she’s got to face the consequences of her actions.”
William S. Walker, acting special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia, said that Molina “was entrusted with sensitive personal information to assist her clients, and instead, chose to betray that trust and enrich herself.”
She pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. She faces a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison and must pay back her victims. U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III set an April 30 sentencing date.
“She’s doing the right thing,” said Molina’s defense attorney, Caroline Goldner Cinquanto, after the hearing. “These situations are hard and people make mistakes, but I think when someone comes and takes responsibility, I think they should be given credit for that and Judge Bartle will do that, hopefully, and obviously, we are going to do the right thing by the victims as well.”