Rashid Mahmood, 44, is accused of obtaining his citizenship illegally “by concealment of material facts and by willful misrepresentation,” according to the civil suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Mahmood, a native of Pakistan, is one of three men included in a nationwide effort to crack down on this specific type of immigration fraud.
“The civil complaints charge that defendants in these cases exploited our immigration system and unlawfully secured the ultimate immigration benefit of naturalization, “ Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a statement. “The filing of these cases sends a clear message to immigration fraudsters – if you break our immigration laws, we will prosecute you and denaturalize you.”
Mahmood did not return a message seeking comment left at a gas station he owns in New Haven.
In 2009, he was the subject of a feature story in The Courant about the Sam’s Food Market he owned on Wethersfield Avenue in the South End.
Mahmood was seen as a pioneer of gas-station fried chicken in the capital city, selling the fast-food staple out of his 24-hour convenience store.
At the time, Mahmood told a reporter that he owned “several [stores] in the area.” The story also references him getting his first American job at one such store after emigrating from Pakistan at 17.
The civil complaint alleges Mahmood first tried to enter the country at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport under the name “Rashid Mehmood” in 1992. He presented immigration officials with a fraudulent temporary resident card with a registration number belonging to “a female Liberian citizen,” according to the suit. At the time, he also said he was a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, a left-wing political group.
He was denied entry and given a date to appear in front of an immigration judge in 30 days. But Mahmood skipped the hearing, and a deportation order was issued by the federal government.
Three years later, Mahmood applied for permanent residency through a petition of his spouse, a U.S. citizen. It was denied.
He tried again in 1997 and was successful, despite testifying under oath that he had never been barred from entering the country previously and was never a member of a political organization, the lawsuit alleges.
In 2002, he applied for naturalization. That application used a false birth date, did not disclose that Mahmood had used a different name during previous attempts at citizenship, and did not disclose that he had previously been ordered deported from the country, according to the lawsuit.
He was approved, and took an oath of naturalization in 2005.