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Doctors Gave Fake Medical Opinions So Immigrants Could Get Citizenship

In a display of both illegal and unethical behavior, doctors and psychiatrists around the nation have been caught helping immigrants get U.S. citizenship by providing fake medical opinions.

In Chicago alone, an estimated 1,000 people every year submit a form to immigration officials asking for a waiver to understand English and pass a civics and history test. The obscure form – N-648 – gives exception to immigrants if they have a physical or mental ailment that would prevent them from meeting the language requirements of citizenship, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The problem with this: Immigration officials aren’t supposed to investigate the ailments – they take the doctor’s word for it. They are only instructed to ensure the forms are completed correctly and that the information in the applicant’s fire is consistent.

Doctors take money to fill out the forms for immigrants who are unwilling to learn even the most basic English. So far, three doctors in Chicago have plead guilty to the scam and another is facing charges.

Dr. Slawomir Puszkarski, whose practice on Milwaukee Avenue on the Northwest Side catered to Polish patients, was sentenced to probation in 2015 after he admitted helping an undercover federal agent submit a fake Form N-648.

“I learned a lot from my mistake, and I would never do it again,” the 55-year-old psychiatrist told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Other doctors have recently faced prosecution for the crime in San Diego, Miami and Philadelphia, records show – part of a larger problem of fraud involving immigration documents. For years, fake ID-makes have flourished in Illinois and other states.

But fraud involving Form N-648 is different because the doctors take a bigger risk than most scammers — that of losing their medical license — in exchange for fees that records show have ranged from about $200 to $2,500 a form.

Some of the doctors in the scam were also scamming Medicaid and Medicare. Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil, a Miami psychiatrist now serving a 151-month prison sentence, made false diagnoses of mental illnesses, allowing clients to obtain Social Security disability payments, according to prosecutors.

In San Diego, Dr. Roberto J. Velasquez was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2013 for immigration and Social Security fraud in the San Diego area. Velasquez, a psychiatrist, falsified N-648 forms between 2006 and 2012 in return for $200 each, prosecutors said. The forms granted disability exemptions to at least 50 people.

In 2011, he was visited by an undercover agent.

“All right, very good, we’re going to make you a United States citizen, OK?” Velasquez was secretly recorded saying.

“I’m going to put down that you’re depressed, sad, anxious, um, I’m going to make a good report for you.”