INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indianapolis woman who scammed people trying to get immigration documents was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday.
Judith Palma, who operated under the name Roma Smith, took $67,856 from 31 people, telling them the money was for down payments for residency documents, according to a release.
According to court documents, Palma told the victims she had a contact in the Indianapolis Immigration Office, named Ms. Warner, who could help undocumented individuals receive their U.S. Permanent Residency Cards and other documents.
She is believed to have gained their trust by meeting them through local churches. The churches' pastors were also victimized by Palma, prosecutors said, as they used their influence over the congregation to endorse Palma's services.
On Thursday, Palma pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts of theft. In all, she is believed to have victimized at least 170 people.
“Judith Palma took advantage of some of the most vulnerable and naïve individuals in our community. Persons such as Palma who exploit a position of trust and target such vulnerable victims will be strenuously investigated and prosecuted,” stated Prosecutor Curry. “I commend our Grand Jury Division investigators and our interpreters who worked tirelessly on this case.”
In addition to her sentence, Palma was ordered to pay $274,113 in restitution to her victims.
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