FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Coney Island Man Indicted for Posing as Immigrant Assistance Service Provider and Filing Dozens of Allegedly Fraudulent Asylum Applications
Targeted Immigrants of Eastern European Descent and Allegedly
Charged Up to $3,000; Victims Never Received Immigration Benefits
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 42-year-old Brooklyn man has been indicted for scheme to defraud, grand larceny, immigrant assistance services fraud and other charges for claiming to be an Immigrant Assistance Service Provider authorized to prepare immigration applications and filing as many as 35 asylum petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which were flagged as fraudulent.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “As the federal government puts in place unprecedented hurdles on immigrants and asylum seekers, it is more important than ever to make sure that con men don’t take advantage of the desperation and fear. This defendant allegedly did just that: he presented bogus credentials and charged vulnerable newcomers thousands of dollars for immigration services he never delivered. My Immigrant Affairs Unit will continue to protect all Brooklyn residents, regardless of status, from fraud and abuse, and I urge everyone to be cautious and diligent when seeking immigration assistance.”
“It is particularly despicable when scammers prey on those in their own community, taking advantage of the trust placed in them to prepare immigration applications and petitions,” said United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) New York Asylum Office Director Patricia A. Menges. “Today’s indictment is a reminder to those seeking to defraud the government that they will be brought to justice by the local and federal agencies tasked with preserving the integrity of our immigration system.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Vadim Alekseev, 42, of Coney Island, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 21-count indictment in which he is charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree immigrant assistance services fraud, fourth-degree grand larceny, tampering with physical evidence and practicing or appearing as attorney-at-law without being admitted and registered. He was ordered held on $15,000 bail and to return to court on October 3, 2018. The defendant faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the top count.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between August 2014 and December 2017, the defendant filed 35 asylum applications with the Department of Homeland Security, which were flagged as fraudulent by the agency. He targeted immigrants of Eastern-European descent, presented himself as a licensed paralegal authorized to prepare immigration applications and advertised his services in Russian newspapers and websites.
It is alleged that that the defendant charged the victims in advance between $1,000 and $3,000 and, after filing their applications, became unresponsive and refused to answer phone calls and text messages. In total, the defendant obtained at least $30,000 as a result of his alleged scheme. The USCIS found that all the applications he filed were “strikingly similar” and deemed them to be fraudulent. None of the victims received asylum status or other benefits, the investigation found.
The grand larceny and immigrant assistance services fraud charges pertain to five specific victims who all reside in Brooklyn and arrived at the U.S. from Eastern Europe in 2016 and 2017. All met with the defendant and paid him between $1,250 and $3,000 to file asylum applications on their behalf. None of the victims were granted asylum or other immigration status.
The District Attorney thanked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, New York Asylum Office, for its assistance in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Immigration Counsel David Satnarine, of the District Attorney’s Immigrant Affairs Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney José Interiano, Deputy Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.