Company Allegedly Preyed on Immigrants
RICHMOND, Va. – Federal authorities arrested last week a Richmond-area woman who allegedly preyed on individuals seeking to obtain student visas to enter the U.S. Information provided by the Better Business Bureau in Central Virginia contributed to the investigation and apprehension.
Agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehended Mary Ann Smith, vice president of Marketing for International Business Network (IBN), formerly based at Paragon Place in western Henrico County. Smith is charged with defrauding immigrants who were attempting to bring family members to the U.S. Her arrest follows a year of intense investigation by both BBB and ICE.
“We received a complaint a year ago from a consumer who had paid thousands of dollars to secure visas for Cambodian relatives to enter the U.S.,” said Tom Gallagher, the local BBB’s president and CEO. “Even after receiving more than $40,000, IBN allegedly demanded payment of additional fees to cover such things as health insurance.”
Part of the funds were to be used for the purchase of airline tickets. BBB investigators found that the tickets had never been purchased.
Gallagher said his office received a similar complaint at about the same time. This, too, involved the expedition of visas for family members living in Southeast Asia. Like the first complaint, thousands of dollars were exchanged and no visas were ever acquired.
Other complaints about IBN involved relatives living in Africa and Latin America.
“We’re delighted that we can assist law enforcement in shutting down scam artists of this kind. There’s no place for a company like this in a marketplace that strives to operate with trust and integrity,” Gallagher said.
The BBB in Central Virginia serves Richmond and Tri-Cities, as well as 42 surrounding counties, from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of the BBB include business reliability reports, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education and charity review.