FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Fake Lawyer Who Falsely Claimed Brooklyn Bar Association as his Office Indicted for Offering Bogus Immigration Services for a Fee
Defendant is the First to be Charged in New York State Under New Law
That Protects Immigrants from Fraudulent Assistance Services
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced today that a Sunset Park man was indicted for allegedly posing as an attorney and charging thousands of dollars for immigration assistance services, but delivering nothing but forged documents in return. Among the counts he was indicted for is immigrant assistance services fraud, a new law that went into effect four months ago and is being used by prosecutors in New York State for the first time.
District Attorney Thompson said, “We will aggressively investigate and prosecute any and all con artists, especially fake lawyers, who prey on undocumented immigrants to steal their hard-earned money through fraud.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Howard Seidler, 69, of 336 51st Street, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Between November 2014 and May 2015, the defendant posted advertisements in Sunset Park, identifying himself as an attorney who provides immigration services. The ads and his business card included the titles “Esq.,” PhD” and “J.D.”
According to the indictment, a detective investigator from the District Attorney’s Office, working undercover, met with Seidler in the library of the Brooklyn Bar Association at 123 Remsen Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which he claimed to be his office. On April 8, 2015, the detective paid Seidler $3,085 to act as his attorney and help him obtain a green card and a social security card. The undercover was then provided with a written retainer contract.
The District Attorney said that on April 24, 2015, the undercover had another meeting with Seidler, who gave him a social security card and immigration paperwork purportedly filed on his behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. The investigation found that the social security card was allegedly forged, that the social security number did not belong to the name used by the detective and that no application was filed on his behalf with United States immigration authorities.
The investigation also revealed that the defendant is neither licensed nor registered to practice law in New York and that he is not licensed or accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to provide any services with immigration authorities.
Seidler was charged with one count each of practicing or appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted and registered, first-degree forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, third-degree grand larceny and first-degree immigrant assistance services fraud. The last felony count went into effect in February 2015. He faces up to 15 years in prison for the top forgery count and up to four years on immigrant assistance services fraud.
The defendant was arrested May 26, 2015 and arraigned in front of Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Sharon Clarke who set bail at $20,000 bond or $10,000 cash. An indictment was subsequently voted and filed on Monday, June 1, 2015.
DA Thompson thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Fraud Detection and Nationality Security, a division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Office of the Inspector General at the Social Security Administration for assisting in the investigation.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Rommie Woolcock, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Investigator Thomas Farley and the overall supervision of Richard Bellucci, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau.
Special Agent Matthew Macchiaroli of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and Neisha Samaroo, a Special Agent with the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, assisted in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jose Interiano, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kin Ng, Chief of the Immigrant Fraud Unit, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.