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U.S. Says Man Posing as INS Agent Bilked Amnesty Seekers

Times Staff Writer

A federal grand jury indicted a Van Nuys man Tuesday, accusing him of posing as an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer and bilking nine people applying for amnesty out of $3,810.

If convicted of seven counts of impersonating a federal official, Alfred John Costello, 67, could be sentenced to a maximum of 21 years in prison and fined $1.2 million.

Assistant U.S. Atty. David Sklansky said the indictment was sought after an investigation by the INS.

The investigation determined that between July, 1987, and February, 1988, nine people filed papers with Costello, who they believed was an immigration official, to help them gain legal residence under the federal immigration reform law, Sklansky said.

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Sklansky said Costello did not wear a uniform when he advised customers. Sklansky would release no details on how Costello convinced people that he was a federal official.

“He apparently operated sometimes out of his own house; sometimes he went to his customers’ homes,” Sklansky said.

Costello charged between $150 and $1,200 per application and never filed the applications with an INS office, Sklansky said.

Because Costello was arrested April 29, those allegedly defrauded had sufficient time to refile their applications with the INS to meet the May 5 amnesty application deadline, Sklansky said.

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Costello will remain free on bail until his arraignment May 23 in U.S. District Court.

Costello’s alleged victims were from the San Fernando Valley and East Los Angeles, authorities said. Seven counts were leveled against Costello.


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