Florida man convicted of pulling several local business owners into a massive conspiracy to illegally bring foreign nationals into the United States will be spending three years in prison and forfeiting more than half a million dollars to the federal government.

In October 2017, a jury in Mobile found David J. Jimenez guilty of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and one substantive count of money laundering.

The conspiracy was a means by which Jimenez sustained a long-running scheme to illegally obtain EB-1C visas for Chinese nationals in exchange for cash he kept himself or distributed to other co-conspirators.

The EB-1C visa program allows U.S. businesses in joint ventures with foreign corporations to bring higher-level “executives and managers” from overseas into the country much faster than they could using other visa programs. Prosecutors contend an EB-1C visa is the “fastest tract” for foreign workers, their spouses and children to become permanent citizens.

From 2010 and 2015, Jimenez established fraudulent ventures between companies in China and the U.S. by recruiting business owners in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and elsewhere to “sponsor” an immigration petition for a Chinese national.

The business owners were told they’d receive up to $30,000 for each successful petition, according to a press release announcing Jimenez’s conviction. The owners would provide documentation about their companies to Jimenez, who would create “fraudulent” documentation to make it appear as though the businesses had an existing relationship with a company in China through an established joint venture.

That information would then be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to obtain EB-1C visas for Chinese nationals who typically put up from $200,000 to $300,000 of their own money for the expedited path to U.S. citizenship.

Some of the businesses he recruited were in Mobile, Daphne, Saraland, Orange Beach, Pensacola and Brewton, though others were as far away as Miami. Altogether, there were more than two dozen companies that became involved with Jimenez’s scheme.

So far, Lagniappe has only been able to identify a partial list of the local businesses involved, as U.S. Attorney Richard Moore’s office and clerks with the federal court in Mobile have declined to release a complete list of witnesses from Jimenez’s trial in October.

Those identified include Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club, McClure Electric, Wildflowers Boutique, Jack Green Insurance Agency, Mickey Bradford Inc. (Micky Bradford’s Collision), Gulf Coast Air & Power Inc., Miller Resources LLC, Brown Brothers Construction and Adams Electric LLC.

Lagniappe reached out to several of those businesses but was unable to find anyone who would discuss the case. Based on statements made by prosecutors in 2016, there could be at least half a dozen other business from the area pulled into the Jimenez scheme.

One of those is known to be Eco Strong Solutions LLC, which was owned by Fairhope resident Christopher Allen Dean. Dean pleaded guilty in 2016 to a single charge of conspiring with Jimenez to commit visa fraud for his role in helping to recruit businesses for their efforts.

Dean was also one of approximately 30 witnesses called by the government during Jimenez’s trial — a group that also included several local business owners.

While Moore’s office has maintained none of the business owners involved were aware Jimenez was using them as part of an elaborate fraud scheme, prosecutors also declined an opportunity to firmly rule out any criminal charges against them.

Asked if any of those establishments or their owners could face charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Bodner said last November that “a number of local business owners cooperated with this investigation, and some of those individuals testified during trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office can make no further comment.”

Testimony at trial indicated most business owners were at least aware the use of their companies’ information would lead to the immigration of a Chinese national and potentially profit for themselves or their businesses for visa applications processed successfully.

At least some involved with one local business actually traveled to China during their experience with Jimenez, though details about the purposes of that trip are unclear.

It’s also unclear exactly how many Chinese nationals made it into the country as a result of Jimenez’s scheme, though not every visa application was successful. It’s also unclear who or where the Chinese nationals that did make it to the U.S. are today. District Judge Kristi DuBose acknowledged some were still in the country at Jimenez’s sentencing in late January.

“There are a number of Chinese nationals who entered the country and we don’t know who they are or where they are,” she said. “There are people who got these visas.”

On DuBose’s order, Jimenez was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for his three criminal convictions and ordered to pay $550,000 to the federal government — purportedly ill-gotten gains from his multi-year criminal conspiracy.

The majority of those funds will be generated from the sale of his home in Davie, Florida, according to documents included with DuBose’s Feb. 9 sentencing order. At his sentencing hearing, Jimenez apologized for the pain he’d caused his children and wife, who was in Mobile from South Florida to support him along with other family members, friends and ministers who’d worked with him over the years.

According to court records, Dean, who has already pleaded guilty, will be sentenced for his role in the immigration conspiracy during a hearing in Mobile scheduled to take place in June.