Lawrence couple indicted for allegedly submitting fraudulent applications for asylum seekers

A Lawrence couple has been indicted for allegedly conspiring to prepare and submit fraudulent applications for asylum seekers, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced Wednesday.

Zuwairul Ameer, aka “Zuwairul Thowfeek,” 61, and Claudette Ameer, aka “Claudette Pieries,” 63, were both indicted on Aug. 29 on one count of conspiring to commit immigration fraud and one count of committing immigration fraud.

Applicants for asylum in the United States must show that they have suffered persecution in their country due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, or have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return to that country. The process requires the submission of an application that is reviewed by an asylum officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The officer makes an initial determination whether to grant asylum. If the application has been prepared by someone other than the applicant, the preparer must disclose his or her name and address and must sign the application.

Since at least 2007, Zuwairul Ameer has allegedly been in the business of preparing fraudulent asylum applications on behalf of his non-citizen clients. Claudette Ameer allegedly has managed that business, acting as the primary point of contact for clients, arranging meetings, and mailing completed applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. With Claudette Ameer’s assistance, Zuwairul Ameer allegedly met with clients, listened to their stories of mistreatment in their countries of origin, and drafted applications on their behalf that were fraudulent because they exaggerated the stories of mistreatment and falsely omitted Zuwairul Ameer’s name as the preparer.