FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Brooklyn Man Charged for Posing as U.S. Immigration Employee,
Stealing $5,000 from Three People Seeking Services
Promised He Could Help Get Green Cards, Citizenship and Other Services He Never Delivered
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been charged with scheme to defraud, grand larceny and petit larceny for posing as an employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and stealing $5,000 from three individuals for immigration-related services he promised but never delivered.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Not only is this defendant alleged to have stolen money, he betrayed immigrants who needed help. We will not allow scammers to take advantage of the current climate of fear and confusion in the immigrant community to line their own pockets while making false promises. Now more than ever, immigrants in our city must feel safe and know that law enforcement agencies are here to protect them. I am committed to preserving that trust and to prosecuting anyone who preys upon vulnerable members of this – and any other – community in Brooklyn.”
Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “The New York Immigration Coalition commends District Attorney Gonzalez and his office for the arrest and charges against yet another unscrupulous provider of immigration services. In these terrifying times for immigrants we have seen a sharp rise in schemes that seek to prey on their fears of deportation. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office has been a tremendous ally to the New York Immigration Coalition and New York’s immigrant communities for many years. They are a key member of the Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers (PINY) Task Force, and we look forward to continuing this close collaboration to ensure that our city remains a safe space for all.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Israel Torres, 57, of East New York, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Foley on an indictment in which he is charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree grand larceny and two counts of petit larceny. He was ordered held on $10,000 bail and to return to court on March 29, 2017. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted on the top count.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, in April 2015, the defendant allegedly met one victim whom he told that he was an employee of USCIS. The victim told the defendant that her husband was undocumented and needed help getting his green card. The defendant said that he could assist her in exchange for $3,200, which she paid him in cash. The defendant did not supply a receipt for the payment and the victim’s husband never got his legal permanent residency.
Also in April 2015, according to the investigation, the defendant allegedly met another individual whom he told that he was an employee of USCIS and worked at 26 Federal Plaza. The defendant told the victim that if she ever needed assistance, he could help her. The victim told the defendant that she had her green card, but wanted help getting her U.S. citizenship. The defendant said he could expedite the process and assist her with the paperwork, for which he charged her $1,000. She paid in cash, was provided no receipt and never received her citizenship.
The Acting District Attorney said that the investigation revealed a third victim whom the defendant allegedly approached in March 2015. According to the investigation, the defendant met the victim and told her he worked for USCIS at Federal Plaza. He asked her if she would be interested in bringing a family member to the U.S, saying he could help get the relative permanent residency. The victim mentioned she would like to bring over a relative from the Dominican Republic. The defendant agreed to assist her and charged her $800, which she paid in cash. The defendant did supply a receipt in this case. When the victim’s relative didn’t receive permanent residency or citizenship, the victim repeatedly asked for her money back, which the defendant eventually returned, only, in part, in the amount of $300.
The investigation revealed that no green card application, citizenship application or related paperwork was filed with USCIS by the defendant on behalf of any of the victims or their family members, nor was the defendant employed by USCIS.
The Acting District Attorney thanks the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, New York City Field Office for its assistance in the investigation.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Jennifer Burgos of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Investigator Robert Addonizio and under the overall supervision of Edwin Murphy, Deputy Chief.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Fayola Charlet of the District Attorney’s Immigrant Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney José Interiano, Deputy Chief, and under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
The District Attorney’s Immigrant Fraud Unit can be reached at 718-250-3333 for the reporting of immigration-related fraudulent schemes or other crimes.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.