Caught for Immigration Scam
From El Diario
July 24, 2004

Using religion as cover for immigration fraud, a man and a woman managed to scam about 40 immigrants. But now nothing will help them escape from the hands of justice.

Ereline Simmons, 62 years old, surrendered to authorities yesterday and Judge Fitzgerald set her bail at $15,000.

Simmons is better known as “mother archbishop” due to her involvement in a religious community called Saint Barbara of Sardis, which she managed from her home in Brooklyn.

Cristopher Pendarvis, 65 years old, who operated “Immigration Business Consultants” in Manhattan, was formally accused by a judge in Manhattan’s Criminal Court under charges of grand larceny and fraud. He remains in custody with bail set at $10,000.

If found guilty, the defendants could face up to four years in jail.

According to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Simmons was sending her parishioners, who are mostly from Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, Tobago, Trinidad and St. Lucia, to Pendarvis’ office, where Pendarvis would “help” them obtain their green cards.

Pendarvis, who used to charge from a few hundred up to 8,000 dollars per case, would give his clients contracts so they could pose as employees from the Saint Barbara of Sardis temple. But during the investigation, the district attorney’s office discovered that he never sent the documents to the immigration agency.

On her side, Simmons, a native of Guyana, used to charge her parishioners between $250 and $500 to sponsor them.

“We believe that there are more than 50 victims, and I would like the people who were scammed to call (212) 335-8900 to press charges”, said Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan’s district attorney.

The investigation started at the beginning of 2004, when a victim showed up at the Manhattan district attorney’s office claiming to have paid $8,000 to Pendarvis, who never helped solve the situation.

Another two victims, who concealed their identities to protect themselves due to their illegal status, also charged that the accused had stolen between $5,000 and $8,000 from them.

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Translated from Spanish by Maria Noel Pousa.

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