6 men charged with staging robberies in Chicago area to get visas reserved for crime victims

Feds: Armed robberies were staged so "victims" could apply for immigration visas

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Six men have been charged with staging a series of armed robberies at gas stations, fast food restaurants, and liquor stores in the Chicago area, Louisiana, and Tennessee, in a scheme to obtain immigration visas reserved for crime victims.

A federal indictment unsealed on Friday in Chicago accuses the men of recruiting people to pose as robbers, and then filing false police reports, in order to obtain forms to qualify for U nonimmigrant status, also known as a U-visa, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Such visas are set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered physical or emotional abuse, and are providing assistance to police or prosecutors.

Parth Nayi, 26, of Woodridge; Kewon Young, 31, of Mansfield, Ohio; Bhikhabhai Patel, 51, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Nilesh Patel, 32, of Jackson, Tennessee; Ravinaben Patel, 23, of Racine, Wisconsin; and Rajnikumar Patel, 32, of Jacksonville, Florida, are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.  Ravinaben Patel is also charged with making a false statement in a visa application. 

Federal prosecutors said Nayi and Young organized a series of staged armed robberies between July 2022 and January 2024, in which the four other men pretended to be robbery victims so they could apply for U-visas.

It was not immediately clear if or how the four Patels are related.

The Patels paid Nayi thousands of dollars to participate in the scheme, and he would tell them when and where to show up for the staged robberies, according to the indictment.

During the fake robberies, people pretending to be robbers would brandish what appeared to be firearms, approach people pretending to be victims, and demand their money and belongings. The fake robbers would then take money and other belongings from victims and flee the scene. In some cases, Nayi and Young told the people acting as robbers to hit the purported victims in order to make the robbery look real.

The fake robbery victims would later fill out forms requesting police certify them as victims of a crime qualifying them for U-visas.

Chicago armed robberies were staged so "victims" could obtain visas, feds say

The indictment listed more than a dozen staged robberies committed during the scheme, including gas stations in Lombard and Hickory Hills; Subway restaurants in Chicago, Elmwood Park, and Louisiana; a Tropical Smoothie Café in St. Charles; multiple Dunkin Donuts stores in Chicago and South Holland; liquor stores in Chicago, River Grove, and Lake Villa; a 7-Eleven in Chicago, and a truck stop in Tennessee.

One of the fake robberies happened in July of last year and had real consequences. A 26-year-old clerk was shot during a robbery at Bucktown Food & Liquor, 1950 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The owner said at the time that he was stunned by the dramatic robbery.

The surveillance video showed two masked men all in black walking in. The clerk and the customers in the store handed over their wallets and belongings – only for the robber to start firing anyway.

On Friday, CBS 2 asked an employee working at Bucktown Food & Liquor about the federal indictment. He said he had no idea that the store was involved, and he was not working the day of the robbery. 

"They've undergone something pretty, pretty serious," immigration attorney Xavier Borjas of the Borjas Law Group said of the defendants in this case.

Borjas helps victims of crimes obtain the U-visas, which can help encourage victims to report crimes without fear of being deported. He said these cases are not what the visas are meant for.

"It's very disheartening, because there are so many people that unfortunately do qualify and have been victims of these crimes that you want to ensure hopefully, get some sort of some, some sort of relief," Borjas said.

The conspiracy charges against the defendants carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, while the false statement charge against Ravinaben Patel carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Court information for the defendants was not immediately available.

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