Anyone that paid a doctor for a fake medical opinion and received citizenship should lose their citizenship for falsifying records and be deported.
Psychiatrists and other doctors in Chicago and across the country have been caught helping immigrants gain U.S. citizenship by providing fake medical opinions, records show.
An estimated 1,000 people a year submit a form to immigration officials in Chicago alone to waive the requirements that someone seeking citizenship must understand English and pass a test in U.S. history and civics.
The obscure Form N-648 requires a doctor to list any physical or mental ailment that would prevent a patient from meeting the language requirements of citizenship.
The form is susceptible to fraud, though. Immigration officials aren’t supposed to investigate the ailments. They’re instructed only to make sure that the forms are completed correctly and that the information in an applicant’s file is consistent.
Corrupt doctors have taken cash to fill out the forms for able-bodied immigrants, who then avoid having to take proficiency tests in English and U.S. history and civics. Three doctors with Chicago offices have pleaded 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 recently have 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-makers have flourished in Illinois and elsewhere.
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.
In some cases, the doctors who engage in such fraud also were 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. They say his clients also used fake mental diagnoses on N-648 forms to become citizens.
The 50-year-old doctor was ordered to repay the government more than $30 million. Authorities seized his property and an art collection that included prints by Marc Chagall.
On the West Coast, 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, records show.
Velasquez, 60, coached clients to use poor English during citizenship interviews and not to disclose their college educations. Chicago Sun Times