Last month Lila Tabafunda was sworn in as a new member of the Echo Park neighborhood council after promoting herself as being involved in community service, fighting child abuse and supporting business. But, only a few days earlier, Tabafunda was arrested as she was boarding a Mexico-bound cruise ship and later charged with immigration fraud. Tabafunda was indicted “for allegedly filing more than 100 bogus work visa petitions on behalf of aliens she falsely claimed had been recruited for positions with prominent hospitals and non-profit organizations, ” according to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
The 57-year-old owner of People’s Resources International Services of Los Angeles was named in a 10-count federal indictment that charges her with nine counts of visa fraud and one count of perjury. “Two of the charges involve alleged fraud and false statements related to Tabafunda’s own naturalization application,” according to a department press release.
Ari Bessendorf, President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, said that the Tabafunda named on the indictment is the same person now serving on the neighborhood council. “While these are serious charges, they are still only charges at this point and that she should be afforded the right of due process and the presumption of innocence,” he said via email.
The Eastsider attempted to contact Tabafunda, who posted $50,000 bond, at the People’s Resources International Services but the phone had been disconnected.
Tabafunda allegedly charged her clients–mostly Philippine nationals who originally entered the United States on tourist visas–anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 to file visa petitions on their behalf. Federal officials claim Tabafunda carried out the fraud over nearly a decade:
Court documents in the case allege that for nearly a decade Tabafunda used the names of shell companies and non-profit organizations in fraudulent employment-based, non-immigrant visa petitions submitted to USCIS and the U.S. Department of Labor. According to the indictment, Tabafunda falsely claimed that her clients were being sought for positions by prominent organizations, including City of Hope, Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Among the jobs listed on the fraudulent employment visa petitions were budget analysts, clinical research specialists and “health educators.”
Tabafunda is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court and faces 95 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.