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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Echo Park council member indicted on immigration fraud

Tabafunda's photo and council candidate statement

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.



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23 comments

  1. I thought we were beyond the bigoted term “aliens”?

    • why is aliens bigoted? and what should be used instead? i’m really asking, not trying to be a dick.

      • GC,
        It’s not bigoted term. It is an attempt to distract one from the issue at hand.

        An alien is simply someone who is no from the country where they currently reside. What’s bigoted about that? Nothing.

        What Veronica is trying to do is demonize a word in effect demonizing the people enforcing the law. Those tactics are so commonplace in our society’s vernacular that she probably doesn’t even realize what she’s doing…

        • I actually think it’s the other way around— the term alien is used to make immigrants “others”— somehow make them separate from people like you and me. Therefore making it easier to justify inhumane treatment of human beings.

          • i disagree with you anna. the word “alien” is not being used to make someone else an “other”. in this case it’s describing someone not from this country — they are an outsider only that they are not from this country. it’s not making them another species or separate them from being humans nor is allowing others to be treated inhumanely. as a matter of fact, a PERSON treated these people inhumanely, not the word used to describe them. but since some feel the use of the word is bigoted when it comes to describing illegal immigrants then maybe we should just put it plainly and call them illegal immigrants. just because someone is here illegally + being described as such does not mean they are being treated inhumanely.

          • Well, Anna. I don’t think our tactics are working very well if the goal is to make “aliens” feel separated from the rest. Feeling “separate” would not compel one to enter a governing position such as the neighborhood council…

      • When the aliens return to Earth, they will be very upset that our population exploded since they created humans and we are not all mining for gold.

      • Actually, the origin of the term goes back quite some time. It is not some diabolical recent effort of bigotry. In fact, like a LOT of other terms used for any number of things, it is actually the opposite. It is a neutral term. In this context, it is used synonymous with “foreigner.” So, it instead could be “illegal foreigner.”

        But I’m sure the ones who oppose the term “illegal alien” would just as strongly oppose “illegal foreigner.” They would rather make it “undocumented worker,” which itself is actually presumptuous and specifically designed NOT to be neutral, but instead to make a political statement. (Yes, I know many such people do actually work.)

        Popular use of the term “alien” in science fiction does not make it a bigoted term nor does it co-opt the definition. Even the term “illegal” is not bigoted. It is merely a specific statement that the foreigner is here illegally — because yes, you must have the proper approval, the documents. Saying “undocumented” is simply seen as a softer term, but illegal is the more precise term. The fact are that the people have remained here against the law, meaning illegally. This does not make them scurilous criminal types such as murderers or robbers or other; it simply means they have not followed the law.

        All that said, let me add, I oppose bigotry, whether against such immigrants or against anyone. I simply think the effort to villainize the term “illegal alien” is misguided, as you will only ALIENATE people who see it as not offensive, simply accurate. I understand the effort to bring awareness to the actual situation and work against bigotry, but villainizing people who are not the bigots is not wise. As you can see here, many take offense, so the effort backfires.

    • What I find ironic is that this is pretty much the only country where it’s considered “bigoted” to point out that someone is here illegally, as though that were a statement of personal value. Pretty much every other country in the world has some kind of immigration law and red tape associated with gaining a work visa, let alone a citizenship. I know this for a fact because I have been looking into moving overseas for a while, and it’s hard as hell to get one in most places. Give me a break!

  2. What a busy little bee!!!! All this going on and she managed to find the time to run and get elected to a representative post on the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council. But I have to hand it to her: Arrested on October 16th, and showed up for the swearing in ceremony on October 23rd. Hollywood couldn’t make this up – only in Echo Park. I gotta say there’s nothing like ‘Leadership in Action.’ Was this woman part of Francisco Torrero’s slate… does anyone know?

  3. So are their still openings in District 1 and 3 and will they be filled? Arf.

  4. Wait, she was elected with that garbled mess of a mission statement? Was there no opposition?

  5. Neighborhood Clubs ops ! Councils are Comedy Clubs of pretend artists
    under contract with Empower LA financing. Around 500+ stakeholders were fooled into a game of charade called “election” that cost the City a pretty penny!
    This recent blooper on the heels of frozens funds, lost receipts, budget allocation forgetfullness isn’t new to GEPENC. The previous administration had
    a similar case as well, less publicised perhaps……..Did Empower LA/DONE care?
    Nope. A case of charges of child pornography at higher levels of oversight
    was given scant coverage. Stakeholders are left unaware and in the dark
    while the players deal and GEPENC Certificates of Merit for Outstanding Service get given out like Halloween candy (11/23) to continue the facade. Don’t be fooled. Your right to know is under seige and Echo Park deserves better.

  6. Based on Tabafunda’s mission statement, I’d say her English-language skills are on par with the skills of this Arizona politician (or political hopeful):

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/az-woman-barred-from-city-council-race-because-she-cant-speak-english-proficiently-files-appeal/

  7. To be clear, the outgoing GEPENC board received certificates of appreciation. The minutes of the 10/26 GEPENC meeting are currently available at GEPENC.org. Our next meeting will be held 11/13, where we will be organizing our standing committees. Additionally we have formed ad hoc committees to (1) issue a reconciliation report of all outstanding finances, and (2) to resolve the outstanding issues with the GEPENC office and determine whether a new meeting place would be appropriate. The entire district deserves a well functioning neighborhood council, no less than Silverlake or Chinatown. I encourage all to attend our meetings and serve on our committees. It is easy to make anonymous comments on the Internet, but are you willing to volunteer to spend your time in service to the community? We will build a foundation of good governance, transparency, and equal treatment for all with business in front of the neighborhood council. There are many important issues facing our neighborhoods. My goal is that our diverse neighborhood can speak with a unifies voice.

  8. Troy: Re: Torrero slate of Leadership in Action.

    Huh? Leadership in fiction more likely.
    Check the records…Treasurer Torrero lost 45 receipts…could not find file..
    Failed City compliance requirements…Treasurer failed to file five quarterly financial Reports
    Led Land Use and Planning Committee but approved rental of GEPENC “office”
    space which had numerous Building and Safety Code violations….
    Doesn’t Fiction describes the action better? Facts say it all! Torrero RETIRE!
    Echo Park doesn’t need a return performance or re-run. RETIRE this NC!

  9. Holy cow! How did she get elected with that mess of a candidate statement? It makes no
    sense at all. I wonder what’s going on with Echo Park voters to put faith in a bunch of nonsense like that.

  10. Ari:

    Many in Echo Park do not have access to the Internet or own computers.
    The election which you won basically informed the “haves” as not a single flyer
    was posted by either DONE or GEPENC. What election? Closed Club call, yes?

    And you threw open the vacant positions to only those who attended the first meeting. So the rest need not apply? A Fair and transparent process you have not demonstrated……
    Keep up with the effort to give out candy certificates for incompetance and include one for yourself and DONE. Consider it an occupational hazard and
    a tradition that the prior administration generously demonstrated……….
    including giving out turkeys to a single school/organization repeatedly instead of of seeking to share the turkey dinners with a wider public whose needs were equally compelling. And worse keeping it off the agenda and out of public
    knowledge for years. Turkey Certificates this round?

  11. Again, posting misinformation anonymously is easy, actually serving the community is hard. The open district seat is open to any eligible person, and will be voted on by the board, per the current by laws. Outreach is key to ensure all will have a voice, which is why we had both Spanish and Tagolog translators at our first meeting. Yes we need to do more, and I do agree that the last election was not publicized enough, however that of course was the actions of the previous board. We have tried to reach out to several community organizations to find deserving families for our allotment of 15 turkey dinners from the Dodgers. All of this is in the minutes of our first meeting. We are rebuilding the organization one step at a time, and we all know how much work needs to be done. If you really care, Incognito, you are invited, as all are, to come to our meetings and serve on our committees.

  12. Admirable that she wants to both “help and eradicate the child abuse.” Pathetic that she actually won. I’d agree with the imported votes comment.

  13. Ari:

    I believe that a stakeholder has made video tapes of 99% of all GEPENC Meetings for the past four years. I believe that some are even posted on U-TUBE. If that
    isn’t a sacrifice of time serving the community, then you haven’t taken the time to review the mess that this community has been left in and cannot dig out of. You are currently restricted to act according to the By Laws that the old Board put together…a mind boggling piece of crap! You are also now served by some of the old board that voted for the crap and even skipped Districts for “fresh” starts in a “new” district. Begin by
    asking the City Attorney to get DONE to clean up its act . Lead the way Ari or
    print Certificates of Merit like there is no tomorrow. You blame the old GEPENC for failing to handle election outreach…yet you proudly agreed with DONE to hand out Certificates of Merit? Keep the press rolling……. and remember the trees felled for useless merit certificates. Make sure you wall paper the “office”
    with them and hold on to the chairs that were upholstered with City funds then
    seldom used.. left in storage or the back room.

  14. Ari:

    There are various ways to dialogue, convey information or serve the community.Seated on a committe is but oneof many ways.

    You seem to dismiss research and information exposure as a selfish and dysfunctional activity of limited value to community. Look what the LA Times
    did with its exposure of Bell City, Lynwood, Vernon etc. It did more for those
    communities to bring about change than perhaps serving on an Ad Hoc committee might have had. The LA Times used a tool that is available to all.
    It is called the California Request For Records Act that both DONE and GEPENC
    have sought to dismiss/diminish and discount as a legitimate tool offered by
    the State of California and adopted by governmental agencies.

    The current GEPENC seems to speak of serving community and being a force
    of change of benefit to community. Like without GEPENC, Echo Park would fall into some dark / dinosaur age. Long before there was GEPENC , community
    was and still is served by numerous organizations and with functioning committees and Boards. In addition, despite a dysfunctional GEPENC, several organizations have come into existence to fill niches or expand services. The area is also served by branch libraries and recreational centers and parks that are the envy in this City. The Libraries and Parks are served by advisory Boards or not-for-profits that serve with volunteer assistance drawn from community.

    GEPENC has tried unsuccessfully to make itself the only voice in community
    often taking over Boards,events, or creating self serving out reach or misleading stakeholders that only through NCs that their City elected officials be accessed since NC were created to “advise” City Council. Every stakeholder has the right
    to write to their elected members in the City. Every stakeholder has the right
    to speak for two minutes after filing out a Speaker Card to speak at City Council Meetings in front of the 15 member LA City Council members on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of each week beginning at 10:00 AM. Stakeholders can also attend specific City Council Committee Meetings to express their views. For those who find this inconvenient, all City Council members have District offices and phones and staff and often hold neighborhood meetings on a range of subjects. The Council member and staff
    also handle individual requests for assistance or direct one to an agency better able to provide assistance. For those who find this a bit bewildering, use the
    City’s convenient 311 call in number. Stakeholders should become better aquainted with their City Council members for service and information.

    For the longest time DONE and NCs have worked to pigeon hole City Council
    as perhaps unresponsive to neighborhoods. Perhaps this could have been true
    ten years ago when the NC system came into being. Ten years later and a
    history of failed outreach, disrespect of basic stakeholder rights, indifferent and bad management decisions by DONE makes reviewing the NC system as a mjor voice in community one that needs a major overhauling with City Council,
    Controller, Mayor and City Attorney involved in the process. Communities are
    tired of DONE’s experimentation and NC private club tactics. Echo Park is
    a community that is fortunate to be served and respresnted by some great
    organizations and volunteers. GEPENC has brought very little to the plate
    and given DONE’s dysfunction to provide even the most basic direction
    indicates that GEPENC will continue to misread community and present
    an agenda that is its own to maintain fiefdom.

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