The Federal Trade Commission today announced that prospective immigrants who bought diversity visa (DV) lottery application services from USA Immigration Services (USA Immigration) and are natives of eligible countries will need to re-register for the 2003 DV lottery. USA Immigration is not operating, and its principals are in jail. The company will not file any applications in the DV lottery.
Entering the DV lottery is free. Individuals can enter on their own at the State Department’s Web site, www.dvlottery.state.gov. The State Department began accepting entries for the 2003 DV lottery on November 1, 2003, and will continue to accept entries through December 30, 2003. There is a strict limit of one application per person. Application information sent to USA Immigration Services will not be filed with the State Department and will not count toward that limit.
On October 1, 2003, FTC filed a lawsuit against USA Immigration Services and its operators, John Romano and Hoda Nofal, alleging that they misled consumers into believing they were affiliated with the United States government, and that for a fee, they could help consumers register through the DV lottery for a chance to apply for a permanent resident visa (green card). According to the FTC, the defendants had no connection to the federal government and misled consumers in a variety of ways about the services they claimed to provide.
At the FTC’s request, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered a temporary restraining order on October 2, prohibiting the defendants from making further misrepresentations and freezing their assets. In a separate criminal proceeding, federal criminal law enforcement authorities arrested Romano and Nofal on October 8, 2003. Romano and Nofal are facing charges of mail and wire fraud for their activities with USA Immigration.
More information about the State Department’s diversity visa lottery is at www.travel.state.gov and at www.unitedstatesvisas.gov. Potential immigrants also may call the State Department’s Visa Services’ Public Inquiries Branch at 202-663-1225. This number has recorded information with an option to speak with a visa specialist during most business hours. Those individuals who are overseas should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate office.
Copies of the Commission’s original complaint in this matter are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. 032-3071)
(Civil Action No. 03-CV-2031-HHK)