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Florida man posing as immigration attorney sentenced to 20 years

A Florida man who posed as an immigration attorney, filing hundreds of fraudulent asylum claims and raising more than $ 411,000 from unwitting clients, has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

The man, Elvis Harold Reyes, 56, of Brandon, Fla., Pleaded guilty in December to charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, and was sentenced Monday to 20 years and nine months, the office of the United States Attorney General for the Central District. from Florida said in a statement.

From 2016 to 2019, Mr. Reyes, who owned and operated a Christian nonprofit group called EHR Ministries Inc., introduced himself as an immigration attorney although he was not licensed to do so, according to court documents. A website for the ministry says it helps prepare immigration documents and applications, provides “wedding ceremony services” and caters to “those far from any home church.”

Prosecutors said Mr Reyes was looking for undocumented immigrants in the Tampa area who were from Spanish-speaking countries and were seeking a driver’s license and work permit in Florida. The clients have retained and paid Mr. Reyes to represent them on immigration-related matters before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and other agencies, prosecutors said.

He charged around $ 5,000 for his services, according to court documents. Losses to the victims totaled more than $ 411,000, and Mr Reyes spent that money on travel, luxury shopping, spa visits, jewelry and an allowance for his girlfriend, prosecutors said. .

In all, Reyes has filed more than 225 fraudulent claims, “with the intention of costing victims more than a million dollars,” the statement said. The court postponed the review of the victim’s restitution to a later date.

“Posing as an immigration attorney, Reyes has targeted hundreds of vulnerable people in the Tampa community with his immigration scam,” said Michael Borgen, Tampa District Director for Citizenship Services and U.S. immigration, in a statement following Mr. Reyes’ conviction. He said his agency was “determined to find and stop those who want to cheat the immigration system and preserve it for those who are entitled to immigration benefits.”

The federal public defender who represented Reyes did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Mr. Reyes was held in the Pinellas County Jail, according to jail records.

Prosecutors said Reyes “gave false, inaccurate and incomplete legal and immigration advice to victims in order to induce them to retain his services and those of EHR ministries.” He has used word of mouth referrals, social media, websites and business cards to market his services, according to court documents.

He filed fraudulent claims on behalf of his victims “asking for asylum assistance and refusal-of-removal protections under the United Nations Convention against Torture,” prosecutors said.

In the requests, Mr. Reyes fabricated stories about the threats and persecution, and his clients’ fear of returning to their home countries, prosecutors said.

Mr Reyes did not inform his victims of the false information he had submitted to immigration authorities on their behalf, nor did he inform them of “the legal, administrative and other immigration-related consequences that might arise from the filing. for asylum or for Convention Against Torture protection, ”according to the US attorney’s office.

Prosecutors said Mr Reyes threatened victims who confronted him by saying he could have them deported. And while he was under investigation, they said, he attempted to obstruct justice by asking a friend to wipe his computers.

Some of Mr Reyes’ victims gathered outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa as he was sentenced on Monday. They were holding signs written in Spanish, including one saying, “Elvis Reyes stole our money,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Jesus García Méndez, 38, a Mexican immigrant, told the newspaper that he lost his savings after 10 years of work and was unsure how or if he would be able to sort out the legal situation for him- even and his wife, Angelica.

“I am the father of two children,” he said. “It’s not fair that we are suffering from this situation, but at least we know Reyes won’t hurt more people.”

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Matt Gaetz, loyal to Trump for years, is said to have asked for a general pardon

Mr. Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. A spokesperson denied asking for a pardon in private as part of the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation.

Entry-level political operatives have mistaken a plea for pardon from Representative Gaetz – where he called on President Trump to forgive ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ – with these partisan allegations false and increasingly bizarre against him, ”the spokesperson said in a statement. “These comments have been recorded for some time and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them himself.

Although Mr. Gaetz has little formal power in the House, where he remains a backbench MP, he offered Mr. Trump what he dreamed of and what Republican leaders in Congress wouldn’t always offer: fierce loyalty and a taste for naked political combat.

In his memoir published last fall, “Firebrand: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the MAGA Revolution,” Mr. Gaetz recalled his first one-on-one telephone interview with the President in late 2017. Mr. Trump had seen Mr. Gaetz on Fox News attacks Robert S. Mueller III, Special Advocate, and believes he has heard from an ally.

“I need warriors, you know what I mean? the president told him.

Mr. Gaetz knew this precisely. Despite coming from the more conservative Florida Panhandle, the young congressman shared Mr. Trump’s taste for bragging, especially sexual exploits, and a knack for self-promotion. Neither was particularly impressed with the attributes of traditional power in Washington, and both were sons of powerful men. Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, was the President of the Florida Senate and a wealthy businessman, and Mr. Trump’s father, a successful real estate developer in New York City.

After Democrats took over the House in 2018 and began to put pressure on the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz became a standout player in what he called the “warrior class” of lawmakers who came out on top. mission to protect the president.

“The President called me when I was in my car, asleep in the middle of the night on my Longworth Office bed, on the throne, on planes, in nightclubs, and even in the throes of passion ( yes, I answered), ”Mr. Gaetz boasted in his book.

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His ballot did not count. She faces 5 years in prison for launching it.

On election day 2016, Crystal Mason went to vote after her mother insisted that she make her voice heard in the presidential election. When her name did not appear on the official voting lists at her polling station in Tarrant County, Texas, she filled out a provisional ballot, without thinking about it.

Ms Mason’s ballot was never officially counted or counted because she was not eligible to vote: she was on probation after serving five years for tax evasion. Nonetheless, the ballot dragged her into a lengthy appeal process after a state district court sentenced her to five years in prison for illegal voting because she was a criminal on probation when she was arrested. vote.

Ms. Mason maintains that she did not know she was not eligible to vote.

“It’s very upsetting to wake up everyday knowing that jail is at stake, trying to keep the smile on your face in front of your kids and you don’t know the outcome,” Ms. Mason said during a telephone interview. “Your future is in someone else’s hands because of a simple mistake.”

His case is now directed to the Texas Criminal Appeals Court, the state’s highest court for criminal cases, whose judges said on Wednesday they decided to hear him. Ms Mason unsuccessfully requested a new trial and lost her case in an appeals court.

This new call is the last chance for Ms. Mason, 46, who is on bail, to avoid jail. If her case is to be referred to the federal court system, Ms Mason will have to appeal from a cell.

Alison Grinter, one of Ms Mason’s attorneys, said the federal government made it clear in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that provisional ballots should not be criminalized because they represent “an offer to vote.” – they are not a vote in themselves. “

She said Ms Mason did not know she was ineligible and was still convicted, and that Texas election laws state that a person must knowingly vote illegally to be guilty of a felony.

“Crystal never wanted to be a voting rights advocate,” Grinter said Thursday. “She didn’t want to be a political footballer here. She just wanted to be a mom and a grandmother and put her life back on track, but she really took and ran with it, and she refuses to be bullied.

A Tarrant County grand jury has indicted Ms. Mason for violating Texas election laws, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

“Our office offered Mason the option of probation in this case, which she refused,” the statement read. “Mason waived a jury trial and chose to proceed with a trial before the trial judge.”

In March 2018, Judge Ruben Gonzalez of the 432nd Texas District Court convicted Ms. Mason of a second degree felony for illegal voting.

American Civil Liberties Union of Texas attorney Tommy Buser-Clancy said Ms. Mason should never have been convicted. If there is ambiguity in a person’s eligibility, the interim voting system is there to take that into account, he said.

“It’s very scary,” he said of Ms. Mason’s conviction, “and it destroys the whole purpose of the interim voting system.”

If his eligibility was incorrect, he said, “that should be the end of the story.”

The appeals court ruling could set an important precedent for the future of how the public interprets the vote, especially if it is confused, according to Joseph R. Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He said he hoped the court would establish a principle of not “criminalizing people for being confused about the complexity of the interplay between criminal law and electoral law.”

Professor Fishkin said he and many other legal experts believe that if the court upholds Ms Mason’s conviction, the state would be in direct conflict with federal Help America Vote Act.

“It’s very important for grassroots fairness and for participation across the country that people believe that when they act in good faith and don’t try to make a quick move, you’re not going to start. charge with crimes, ”Professor Fishkin said Thursday. “If this case is valid, it is obviously of concern, as many people who do not understand the details of their status or who are allowed to vote will be dissuaded from voting.”

In the United States, 5.2 million Americans cannot vote because of a previous felony conviction, according to the Sentencing Project, a research organization dedicated to crime and punishment.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said 531 voter fraud offenses had been prosecuted since 2004. The results of these cases were not immediately available. At least 72% of Mr. Paxton’s electoral fraud cases have targeted people of color, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Ms. Mason’s cause has received support from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Clark Neily, senior vice president of criminal justice at the institute, said the case represented an example of excessive criminalization.

“It puts people in a position where they can commit a criminal offense without even knowing that they are breaking any law,” he said.

Celina Stewart, chief counsel for the League of Women Voters, who filed supporting briefs on behalf of Ms Mason, said her case sent “a very clear message” that those convicted of felony should be careful .

“We give her an example, and the example is you don’t want returning citizens, blacks, black women to vote,” she said. “It’s a blatant narrative, and we have to push it back because that’s not how democracy works.”

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Border apprehensions peak in at least 15 years

Authorities have dropped off families with children at bus stations in border communities, where they then continue their journey north with relatives in the United States. Border authorities met more than 1,360 migrants traveling with families on Sunday and deported only 219, according to the documents. On March 26, more than 2,100 families were arrested and only 200 were turned south.

“We see the numbers increasing day by day. They have increased dramatically, especially in March, ”said Hugo Zurita, executive director of Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, Texas, which provided hot meals and items, such as clothing, hand sanitizer and toiletries. masks, to migrant families in the city. bus stop.

Republican members of Congress, vowing to put the issue at the heart of their efforts to regain control of Congress, have repeatedly accused the administration of encouraging increased migration with President Biden’s promise to have more policies. compassionate towards migrants than those imposed under President Donald J. Trump.

“They are definitely going to use this as a weapon against us,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas. “It takes away the good work from Biden. He did a hell of a job on vaccines. It took us away from the message we received.

The Biden administration continued to use an emergency pandemic rule to quickly deport single adults, who continued to constitute the majority of those captured at the border in March. Immigrant advocates have criticized the rule as a break with immigration laws which state that migrants have the right to seek asylum when they reach American soil.

The White House has spoken to at least one congressman about the possibility of deporting 16 and 17-year-olds to Mexico, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The administration also defined its response as one focused on addressing the root causes of migration, appointing Vice President Kamala Harris to work with leaders in the region to strengthen the economy in Central America and revive an agenda of the Obama era which allows certain children to apply for their region of origin for permission to live in the United States with a parent or other family member.

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Maine will open the Covid-19 vaccination to anyone 16 years of age or older on Wednesday. Virginie will do it on April 19.

Maine announced Thursday that adults 16 and older would be eligible for a vaccine on Wednesday, more than a week before the April 19 deadline the state had previously set. Virginia also announced that it would allow residents 16 years of age or older to start getting vaccinated against Covid-19 on April 19, joining more than 40 states that have stepped up efforts to open the process to all adults as Federal health officials warn of a possible fourth outbreak of the coronavirus.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “And that light is getting brighter and brighter every day, as more and more Virginians get vaccinated.”

Vaccination efforts in the United States have gained momentum as states work to make more adults eligible, responding to a call from the president to quickly expand eligibility.

Nationwide, an average of 2.9 million shots per day were administered as of Thursday, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 32% of Virginia’s total population has received at least one vaccine, which places it in the top 20 states, according to a New York Times analysis of CDC data. About 17 percent of the total population of Virginia is fully vaccinated.

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40 years after Reagan, a big government bets can do something

Taken together, these amount to canceling the tax cuts of President Donald J. Trump, who on Wednesday denounced Mr. Biden’s plan “a classic globalist betrayal” which he said would benefit politicians, government bureaucrats. and to China.

But Mr. Trump himself may have helped make this possible by rejecting so much Republican orthodoxy. He let deficits soar and invoked tariffs on Chinese products paid by American consumers. And its actions neither raised interest rates nor enslaved the stock market, which boosted confidence within the Biden administration that it might have more leeway to pump money into. economy without fear of rapid overheating.

The plan includes significant spending on traditional infrastructure projects: $ 115 billion for highways, roads and 10,000 small bridges that need to be rebuilt. There is $ 85 billion for transit systems and $ 80 billion for Amtrak – a recognition that the once tempting idea that a high-speed passenger rail program could be a profitable, capable private enterprise. to raise capital to keep up to date was a fantasy.

Then there is the unknown part, which expands the definition of infrastructure in new directions. There is $ 180 billion for research and development and $ 50 billion to jumpstart semiconductor production in the United States, clearly aimed at countering China. Billions of dollars for Internet connections in underserved rural and poor communities are sold as an employment program, an issue of equity and a catalyst for innovation.

For many on the left, the Biden plan is too cautious, a fraction of what Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called for when they ran against Mr Biden for the Democratic nomination. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York and perhaps the most influential voice in the progressive movement, said after seeing Mr. Biden’s plan that “it is not enough”.

But the argument the Biden administration will present in the coming days is that it is simply restoring the status quo of five decades ago, when public investments in research and development, infrastructure, and the commercialization of technology were, as a percentage of the economy, significantly higher than they are today.

“What this is intended to do,” said Deese, “is to bring us back to something akin to where that level was in the 1960s.”

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Jay Leno apologizes for years of anti-Asian jokes

Longtime “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno apologized for a story of anti-Asian jokes, saying that at the time he “really thought they were harmless,” but now hopes the sorry Asian Americans.

The comedian said in a joint statement with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a watchdog group that tracks anti-Asian comments and incidents in the media and entertainment industries, that he at the time had an attitude that “a group is always complaining about something, so don’t worry. Whenever the show received a complaint, he said, the response was split into two camps: “We have to take care of this” or “fuck them if they can’t take a joke.”

“Too many times I’ve sided with the latter, even though deep down I knew it was wrong,” Leno said. “This is why I apologize. I do not see this particular case as another example of a culture of cancellation, but as a legitimate wrong that has been committed on my part. “

It was a recent realization. In 2019, Mr. Leno, who hosted “The Tonight Show” from 1992 to 2014, made an offensive anti-Asian joke while filming a commercial for “America’s Got Talent,” actor and producer Gabrielle said. Union at Variety.

MANAA, the watchdog group, had complained for decades about Mr Leno’s jokes that were based on stereotypes about Asians, to no avail. Rob Chan, the group’s chairman, said in the statement he was “glad Jay came and we will work together in the future.”

Mr. Leno is expected to host a rebooted game show, “You Bet Your Life,” starting in the fall.

Mr Leno’s apology came as Asian Americans faced increasing discrimination and racist language during the coronavirus pandemic, while also dealing with the trauma of a recent mass shooting in the Atlanta area in of which six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent. Mr. Leno said he would be “deeply hurt and ashamed if my words did anything to incite this violence”.

Some Asian Americans have long argued that their concerns about anti-Asian rhetoric are often dismissed as trivial. Asian Americans have been historically under-represented in Hollywood and in comedy, and in 2016, a bit by comedian Chris Rock who leaned on Asian stereotypes made his way to the Academy Awards.

As late-night comedians choose a variety of targets, this isn’t the first time Mr. Leno has come under fire for jokes that made people laugh at the time. Recently, a documentary on Britney Spears from the New York Times highlighted the jokes of several late-night hosts about her mental health. Mr Leno did not apologize to the singer, although others, including Justin Timberlake and some publications, have said they regret their behavior.

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

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Man says he lived in Philadelphia Veterans Stadium for years

There was AstroTurf carpet, a bed, seats, a coffee table and lamps. Appliances included a toaster oven, coffeemaker, heaters, and stereo.

“You walked in, it was very dark and there was equipment and boxes and crap,” said Mr. McNally, a former general manager of the Electric Factory, a concert hall in Philadelphia. “He had built a few walls at the back, a refrigerator, a sofa, chairs, a hotplate. It’s not like it’s a luxury apartment.

Mr. Garvey called it “comfortable”, with “anything a guy would want”. The bathrooms were across the hall, the employee showers downstairs.

Terry Nilon, Mr Garvey’s cousin and another former stadium employee, said he saw the apartment but didn’t think much about it at the time. “I thought it was funny,” he said.

In his book, Mr. Garvey describes “a quirky South Philly version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’,” including encounters with Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, Sixers legend Julius Erving and pitcher. Phillies Tug McGraw. He also recounts elements of everyday life, including the friendships that helped him adjust after the military, and the time spent alone, rollerblading around the empty stadium at night with the skyline of the city, rivers, bridges and flights as a backdrop.

“It was euphoric,” he said in the interview. “It was like a form of meditation for me. It just helped me a lot.

He was hiding in plain sight: everyone knew him, he said, and his job gave him a reason to be there anytime, any day of the week.

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James Levine’s Final Years: A Timeline

During the last years of his life, conductor James Levine, who had shaped the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades and who is dead on March 9, he returned to his podium after an injury that threatened his career; was fired as music director after health problems made it difficult for him to perform his duties; and was fired from his new post as Music Director Emeritus after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with young men and teens surfaced.

After injuring his spine in a fall and being sidelined for more than two years, Levine returned in triumph to his podium at the Met. The company once again greeted him with fanfare, making the orchestra pit wheelchair accessible and installing new elevators and ramps as well as a rising mechanical podium called the “maestro lift”. He allowed a reporter to watch his rehearsals.

After declining health from Parkinson’s disease prevented musicians and singers from following his lead, the Met tried to get him to resign as music director, but he resisted. At the end of the season, the company announced that Levine would step down and take on a distinguished role that would see him lead regularly.

Levine regularly led as Music Director Emeritus and was given high profile assignments by the company, when several men came forward to say Levine sexually abused them as teenagers. The Met suspended him and opened an investigation.

The Met sacked Levine, saying an investigation he commissioned “revealed credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing behavior towards vulnerable artists early in their careers, on whom Mr. Levine had authority ”.

Levine sued the Met for breach of contract and libel; the Met counterattacked, detailing some of the abuses its investigation uncovered. Almost all of Levine’s libel charges were dismissed, but the contract matter continued. The Met and its insurer eventually agreed to pay Levine $ 3.5 million; his contract as emeritus musical director lacked a moral clause.

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Video: Alaska Expands Vaccine Eligibility to Anyone 16 Years and Over

new video loaded: Alaska Expands Vaccine Eligibility to Anyone 16 Years and Over

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Alaska Expands Vaccine Eligibility to Anyone 16 Years and Over

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has announced that all residents or workers aged 16 and over will receive a coronavirus vaccine. The state has the highest inoculation rate in the United States

Today we want to announce that from tomorrow we will open the vaccination program to all Alaskans who live here or work here, aged 16 and over. So from tomorrow, you will be able to get vaccinated if you want one if you are 16 or older. This is great news for those who want to get vaccinated. So we had a number of Alaskans who have already received their vaccines. They’re already taking care of it. And we have been very fortunate to have been able to protect our most vulnerable healthcare workers, our frontline healthcare workers, many of our people in rural Alaska, our community members and our centers. care for the elderly and elderly. And now is the opportunity for other Alaskans to get vaccinated.

Recent episodes of Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates

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