Category Archives: green card

Work Permit Fraud May Lead to Visa Revocation, Visa Denial and INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Inadmissibility

On June 26, Weiyun “Kelly” Huang, owner of the fictitious companies, Findream LLC and Sinocontech LLC, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Her companies provided false employment verification records to foreign nationals seeking F-1 or H-1B visa status.

The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) played a key role in the investigation, which created ripple effects on persons who received F-1 or H-1B work authorization by presenting a job offer letter, payroll records or other employment verification documents from Findream or Sinocontech.

F-1 and H-1B Work Authorization Requires Legitimate Employment

An F-1 visa allows an international student to study in the United States at a university or other academic institution.  F students may engage in practical training during their academic program or after it ends. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are the two types of training that provide work experience related to the field of study.

Eligible students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). All periods of pre-completion OPT, however, are deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

The OPT employment can be part time (at least 20 hours per week on post-completion OPT) or full time; involve multiple short-term employers, contract work, self-employment, or agency work; and be paid or unpaid (as a volunteer or intern, as long as labor laws are not violated). The student must report all employment to their Designated School Official (DSO) to maintain status.

While a job offer is not required to apply for OPT, the student may not have a cumulative total of 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month OPT period. Otherwise, they fall out of status and begin to accrue unlawful presence.

Students may apply for an additional 24 months of OPT if they have a degree and are employed in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field. For the 24-month STEM OPT extension, the DSO requires the student to have an existing job offer from a U.S. employer and to submit a completed Form I-983 (training plan) that is signed by the student and employer.

Section 3 to Section 6 on the Form I-983 requests information on the company, the agreed-upon practical training schedule and compensation, and the formal training plan, respectively. Unlike regular OPT employment, STEM OPT employment must be paid.

An H-1B visa allows U.S.-based employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations. Foreign nationals with H-1B status may stay in the U.S. for three years, with the possibility of extending their stay for a total of six years. H-1B status may be extended beyond the six-year limit in certain situations, such as when 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an application for labor certification or immigrant petition (Form I-140) for the beneficiary.

F-1 students with a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request, and whose F-1 employment authorization will expire before the change of status to H-1B occurs (typically October 1), may be eligible for a cap-gap extension in the United States. In many cases, the OPT employment or STEM OPT employment is what allows the F-1 student to change to H-1B status without departing for visa processing at the U.S. Consulate.

ICE Investigations of Work Permit Fraud Schemes Continue

ICE’s crackdown on F-1 and H-1B visa fraud schemes spell trouble for international students and foreign national workers who use fake job offers to obtain F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT, F-1 CPT, or H-1B status.

ICE may conduct on-site visits to confirm the visa holder is actually working for the employer and performing the appropriate duties. When little-known companies like Findream and Sinocontech show a high number of F-1 OPT and STEM OPT workers, this can prompt further investigation.

In March 2019, the United States filed a criminal complaint against the owner of Findream, with an affidavit from an FBI Special Agent stating it was a company on paper only, with no actual physical presence, and was created for the purpose of providing false verifications of employment to F-1 visa holders seeking to extend their stay in the U.S. via the OPT program.

The indictment stated that Huang advertised Findream as a “startup company in technology services and consulting,” with clients in China and the U.S.  She used a China-based website, “Chinese Looking for Job,” and a China-based WeChat platform, “Job Hunters of North America,” to advertise Findream and Sinocontech to F-1 visa holders in the U.S. seeking employment and H-1B visas.

The companies did not deliver any technology or consulting services, or employ any of the individuals who responded to the ads, the indictment stated. In exchange for a fee, Huang and the companies provided job offer letters and employment verification letters as proof of employment, the charges alleged. Falsified payroll records and tax forms were also said to be provided.

According to the indictment, the fraud scheme allowed at least 2,685 customers to list Findream or Sinocontech as their employer to extend their F-1 status. Subsequently, many F-1 and H-1B visa holders, particularly from China, had their visas revoked or denied or were refused entry to the United States (following travel abroad) because they had listed Findream or Sinocontech to receive work authorization.

These types of ICE investigations are ongoing. Recent reports indicate that F-1 students, most from India, have received notifications from U.S. Consulates that their visas have been revoked because they used job offer letters from Integra Technologies LLC and AZTech Technologies LLC to obtain OPT, STEM OPT and, in some cases, CPT work permits.

Through direct contact and consultations with applicants, we have also learned that F-1 and H-1B visa holders are being refused admission at the U.S. port of entry if they previously held work authorization by claiming they were employed by these companies. Expedited removal orders and lifetime inadmissibility charges of fraud or misrepresentation are being made by CBP for this reason.

Data from ICE shows that Integra Technologies and AZTech Technologies were 2nd and 6th, respectively, on the list of Top 200 Employers for OPT and STEM OPT Students, which includes well-known companies like Amazon, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Deloite, Facebook and Apple. (NOTE: At least two other companies, Wireclass and Aandwill LLC, have been linked with Integra and AzTech.)

Fraud or Willful Misrepresentation of Material Fact to Obtain U.S. Immigration Benefits is a Permanent Inadmissibility Ground

Federal agencies including ICE and USCIS have made it a priority to deter and detect immigration fraud and have increased site visits, interviews, and investigations of petitioners who use the F-1 OPT and H-1B visa programs. One reason is to protect the “many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged,” according to the agencies.

Submitting a bogus job offer letter, employment verification letter, payroll records or other documents to maintain or obtain F-1 or H-1B status creates the risk of a visa revocation or visa refusal. It may also lead to the denial of admission and an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry.

Whether the F-1 or H-1B visa holder knowingly pays a company for false employment verification is sometimes unclear. The pattern involves the company initiating contact with the beneficiary and requesting payment of a “training fee” at the outset. The job offer or training program might seem real in the beginning. But at some point, it becomes obvious there is no real job.

Persons who claim to have a legitimate job offer to gain an F-1 extension or H-1B status — when there is actually no job — are subject to being found permanently inadmissible. When you present false employment verification records to show you performed job duties and got paid for such duties (in order to receive a visa or lawful status in the United States) you risk being charged with a lifetime inadmissibility ban under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain U.S. immigration benefits).

In unique situations, the person may challenge a section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar by filing a formal motion to reconsider with the appropriate agency, such as CBP or the U.S. Consulate. In most cases, the person will need a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver or Form I-601/INA 212(i) immigrant waiver.

The 212(d)(3) waiver has relatively flexible eligibility standards, which includes addressing the risk of harm to society if the person is admitted to the United States, the magnitude of the U.S. immigration violation that caused the inadmissibility, and the importance of seeking the visa. The Form I-601 waiver has stricter requirements because the person must have a qualifying relative (U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent) who will suffer extreme hardship if the person is not admitted to the United States.

If you are caught up in or benefited from an F-1 or H-1B visa fraud scheme, consult a qualified U.S. immigration attorney to discuss possible remedies. Ongoing and willful participation in the scheme might seem like a victimless offense, but it carries serious and permanent U.S. immigration consequences.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: Certain USCIS Field Offices Plan to Reopen to the Public

As of June 4, some USCIS Field Offices are planning to reopen for in-person services to the public. The Application Support Centers plan to reopen later. The Field Offices and Application Support Centers have been closed to the public since March 18, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of certain USCIS Field Offices will allow the scheduling and rescheduling of interviews for green cards, naturalization, and other U.S. immigration benefits. Biometrics appointment scheduling and rescheduling will also resume when the Application Support Centers reopen.

USCIS is following the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protects its employees and the public. USCIS intends to limit the number of appointments and interviews per day, regularly clean and sanitize its facilities, and restrict the number of persons in waiting rooms.

USCIS’ Health & Safety Guidelines

USCIS provided the following guidelines when visiting their offices.

  • You may not enter a USCIS facility if you:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • You may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to your appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • You are encouraged to use hand sanitizer provided at entry points. 
  • You must wear facial covering (face mask) that covers both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. If you do not have one, USCIS may provide one or you will be asked to reschedule your appointment.
  • You should pay close attention to markings and physical barriers in the facility and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • You may have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility. 
  • You are encouraged to bring your own black or blue ink pens.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

USCIS will send you an appointment notice when your interview or biometrics appointment is scheduled or rescheduled. The notice will provide more details for visiting USCIS offices. If you feel sick, you are urged to request a cancellation or rescheduling of your appointment.

While USCIS is readying certain offices to reopen on or after June 4, its employees are continuing to perform mission-critical services that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public. Most likely, the earliest date for reopening of some offices will be in July.

The reopening will not only provide relief to applicants, but may help bring much-needed revenue to USCIS. In Mid-May, the agency announced it will run out of money by the summer because the coronavirus pandemic led to a steep drop in applications and filing fees since March. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS operates almost entirely on revenue from application fees. It requested $1.2 billion from Congress to help it stay afloat, and proposed a 10% surcharge to application fees in the coming months.

Not every application or petition for a U.S. immigration benefit requires a face-to-face interview with a USCIS officer. The USCIS Service Centers are also continuing to accept applications and petitions and issue Receipt Notices and other correspondences, even while Field Offices remain closed to the public.

For the latest information on individual offices, check the USCIS Office Closing page.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: Impact of Executive Order Temporarily Suspending Some U.S. Immigration for 60 Days, As of April 23

On April 22, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. The Order becomes effective on April 23 at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time and is set to expire within 60 days, with a possibility of an extension.

[UPDATE, June 22, 2020: The Trump Administration issued a new Executive Order extending the suspension up to December 31, 2020. See COVID-19 Update: Executive Order Extends Suspension of Entry of Certain Immigrants AND Suspends Entry of H-1B, H-2B, J and L Visa Applicants and Derivative Beneficiaries, Up to December 31.]

Who Does the Executive Order Affect?

For a 60-day period, the Executive Order suspends and limits the entry of persons as intended immigrants (Immigrant Visa applicants) who are:

(a) outside the United States on the effective date;

(b) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date; and

(c) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, a boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date or any date thereafter that permits a request for admission at a U.S. port of entry.

If you have an Immigrant Visa dated April 23, 2020 or later — and need to land in the United States to become a permanent resident — you will not be admitted into the country during the 60-day period (i.e. up to June 22, 2020). The exception is if you fall into one of the categories that are exempted from the Order.

Who is Exempted from the Executive Order?

The Order does not prevent the entry of lawful permanent residents who already hold green cards for admission to the United States.

The Order also exempts certain intended immigrants, such as:

(1) Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals seeking to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19, or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak – as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designess – plus their accompanying or following to join spouse and unmarried minor children

(2) Immigrant Investors in the EB5 immigrant visa category

(3) Spouses of U.S. citizens

(4) Minor children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa

(5) Persons whose entry would further U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee

(6) Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children

(7) Special Immigrant Visas in the SI or SQ classification (i.e. Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters and their spouses and unmarried minor children)

(8) Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees

What is the Stated Purpose of the Executive Order?

Trump said the Executive Order was necessary to protect American workers in an economy severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Between March 1 and April 11, more than that 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment as a result of the global pandemic and related restrictions with behavioral shifts, including closures of “non-essential” businesses and “social distancing” (physical distancing).

The Executive Order states, “We must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor.  We must also conserve critical State Department resources so that consular officers may continue to provide services to United States citizens abroad.”

The Order adds, “lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted ‘open-market’ employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.  There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply. ” 

What is the Impact of the Executive Order?

While the Executive Order temporarily suspends the entry of some persons who seek to enter the U.S. as immigrants, it exempts certain immigrant visa categories. It does not apply to the K-1 fiancee(e) category, which is a quasi-immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. It also does not prevent the filing of I-130 and I-140 petitions or the processing of such immigrant petitions by USCIS.

Furthermore, delays are already occurring due to global travel restrictions as well as cancellations and unavailability of visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates related to COVID-19.

The Executive Order will have little immediate impact on intended immigrants — unless U.S. Embassies and Consulates were to restart normal operations, such as scheduling visa interviews and issuing visas, within the next 60 days, or the Order is extended even further or indefinitely.

The text of the Order states: “Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.”

The Order also notes that additional measures may be taken. It reads, “Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

If the suspension is extended beyond the 60-day period or widened to include nonimmigrant visa categories, this could slow down the restarting of routine in-person services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. In the meantime, Trump has issued guidelines for Opening Up America Again to state and local officials when “reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.”

The situation remains fluid. Whether the Trump Administration will extend the suspension on U.S. immigration or begin a suspension in nonimmigrant visa cases is uncertain at this point.

Persons who are eligible for adjustment to permanent residence (green card) within the United States are not affected by the Executive Order. USCIS is performing mission critical duties that do not involve contact with the public.

For example, it continues to issue receipt notices, requests for evidence, decisions and other notices for petitions and applications. Although USCIS has suspended in-person services through at least May 3, it is still accepting petitions (e.g. I-130 and I-140 petitions) and applications for processing. The scheduling of interviews and biometrics appointments with applicants will restart after normal operations resume.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public, March 18 to April 1

As of March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19). There will be no USCIS Field Office interviews, USCIS Application Support Center biometrics appointments, asylum interviews, or naturalization oath ceremonies during this period.

Field Office Appointments

USCIS Field Offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the interviews and issue new notices.

Persons who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center, after the Field Office is reopened.

Check the USCIS Field Offices page to see if your field office has reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.

Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments

All biometrics appointments at USCIS Application Support Centers are suspended. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the biometrics appointments and issue new notices. If you do not receive a new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, call 800-375-5283.

USCIS is unable to automatically reschedule appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants.

Asylum Appointments

USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

Naturalization oath ceremonies are cancelled. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule naturalization oath ceremonies. If you do not receive a new naturalization oath ceremony notice by mail within 90 days, you may contact the USCIS Contact Center.

During the temporary closure, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. USCIS Service Centers and the National Benefits Center will receive and process applications and petitions; the National Records Center will receive and process FOIA requests; and the Administrative Appeals Office will receive and adjudicate appeals of denied benefits.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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U.S. Consulate Lifts INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Bar and Grants Immigrant Visa: A True Success Story

Within 21 days of receiving our Request for Supervisory Review of Immigrant Visa Refusal and Renewed Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i), the U.S. Consulate removed the lifetime bar and instructed our client to continue the immigrant visa process. Ultimately, he received his Immigrant Visa after the new police certificate and updated proof of his U.S. citizen petitioner’s U.S. domicile and financial support were provided. Because the U.S. Consulate agreed to lift the fraud charge, no Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility, was required.

Born stateless, the applicant used to hold a refugee travel document that contained a visitor visa when he was a child. After he acquired citizenship in a country where he was not born, the applicant used the new passport to obtain a second visitor visa and traveled to the United States for a temporary recreational stay.

Despite being married to a U.S. citizen, he complied with the terms of his visitor visa and did not overstay the authorized period or apply for a marriage-based green card within the United States. Based on the approved Form I-130 immigrant petition filed by his U.S. citizen wife, he sought to become a permanent resident through an Immigrant Visa application at the U.S. Consulate overseas.

At the initial Immigrant Visa interview, the applicant presented his passport for visa stamping. About two months later, the U.S. Consulate conducted a re-interview in which it asked about the process he used to acquire the citizenship and obtain the passport. He explained the legal channels he used to get both. Nonetheless, the U.S. Consulate charged him with section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud/willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain a U.S. immigration benefit), upon noting it was unable to verify his acquired citizenship or the authenticity of the passport when it contacted the government authorities.

The U.S. Consulate instructed him to file a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility, to be excused from the inadmissibility charge. A section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) finding prohibits applicants from receiving an Immigrant Visa without first getting an I-601 approval from USCIS.

Two months after the visa refusal, the applicant contacted me for the first time to discuss his options. In our Skype (video) consultation, I explained that one solution was to file a Form I-601 application, as the U.S. Consulate instructed. To receive the waiver, he would need to prove the extreme hardships his U.S. citizen wife would suffer if he is denied entry to the United States as a permanent resident. I noted there is never any guarantee the waiver will be granted due to the high standard of proof and the discretion involved in the decision-making.

I further pointed out that if he did not commit fraud or willfully misrepresent material facts to gain the prior B1/B2 visitor visa, the Immigrant Visa, or any other U.S. immigration benefit, he could file a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding with the U.S. Consulate. If such a motion is granted and the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar is lifted, the I-601 waiver is not required for the visa to be issued.

The client opted to go with the request to reconsider the inadmissibility charge. After we entered into a representation agreement, I counseled him on the information and documents he needed to present to show he did not engage in fraud or willfully misrepresent material facts to receive any U.S. immigration benefit.

To support the Motion to Reconsider, I prepared a legal memorandum describing how the applicant used proper channels to obtain the passport and why the submission of this passport to the U.S. Consulate was actually immaterial to his eligibility for the Immigrant Visa, as well as the prior visitor visas he received.

Five days after receiving the Motion to Reconsider, the U.S. Consulate issued a response stating the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar would remain and the applicant needed to file for an I-601 waiver. The Consulate noted the applicant had no concrete evidence to support his explanation on how he acquired the citizenship. The Consulate added that during its checks with the government authorities, it was determined beyond reasonable doubt the applicant misrepresented his case and deliberately provided false information and documents to receive an immigration benefit. They added he did not rescind his false statements when given the opportunity to do so.

In the Request for Supervisory Review and Renewed Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding, I stressed the important points the U.S. Consulate missed when it issued the response affirming the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge.

In reply to this Request and Renewed Motion, the U.S. Consulate sent a response 21 days later stating the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge had been lifted. Five months later — following the completion of administrative processing — my client received the Immigrant Visa to join his wife in the United States, without needing to file for and obtain an I-601 waiver.

This is a true success story.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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