Undercover Investigation Snags Predators Preying on Desperate Immigrants

Posted on April 30, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Hotline Tip Leads to Fines and New Protections

Thanks to a tip passed on by staff at our Catholic Charities-manned NY State Immigration Hotline, the NYC Consumer Affairs Department just announced a settlement requiring an unlicensed firm that pretended to be lawyers to pay nearly $200,000 in fines and restitution for deceiving desperate immigrants with offers of legal help.  By misrepresenting their qualifications to provide legal services, the scam placed immigrant New Yorkers at extraordinary risk.

Unlicensed to practice law in any jurisdiction Buitron Offices and its president, Angel G. Buitron, none-the-less offered legal help.  He targeted the Ecuadorian immigrant community, preying on their fears of deportation.  The jig was up when Mr. Buitron repeated his false claims of being an attorney specializing in immigration law to an undercover Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) investigator.

"Catholic Charities Community Services is proud to partner with the Department of Consumer Affairs to curb the unauthorized practice of law and notarios who cheat vulnerable immigrants out of thousands of dollars and may expose them to immigration enforcement," said Raluca Oncioiu, Director of the New Americans Hotline. Managed by Catholic Charities Community Services and funded by the NYS Office for New Americans, Catholic Charities New Americans Hotline anti fraud team triggered this investigation by taking the call that reported the fraud and referring it to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Buitron also deceived consumers by including “Jack Sachs – Attorney at Law” on its website, business cards, and other print materials despite having no affiliation with Sachs, the DCA determined. Moreover, Buitron advertised a “10-Year Visa” on its website, street signs, and business cards. Last summer, DCA warned consumers about the “10-Year Visa Scam” or as Buitron’s advertisements deceptively read – the “Residence by a Ten-Year Law.”

Preying on fears and desperation to find a legal way to stay in the United States, this scam tells immigrants that they can obtain a visa or green card if they have lived in the U.S. for 10 years

These individuals and businesses fail to disclose that, as part of the process for obtaining a green card or visa based upon residency, the immigrant must first enter deportation proceedings. They also often fail to explain additional requirements for this so-called “10-year visa,” including that the immigrant must prove “extreme, unusual, and exceptional hardship” to their family members.

Using these deceptive practices, Buitron charged consumers thousands of dollars for legal advice and services.

Buitron also violated the law by

  • Collecting fees from consumers without providing a written contract or receipt
  • Failing to include required immigration assistance services notices in their signs and advertisements
  • Threatening to report immigrant consumers to immigration authorities if they failed to pay

The DCA’s settlement agreement requires Buitron to:

  • Pay a total of $34,050 in restitution for the consumers identified in this case
  • Pay a total of $150,000 in fines
  • Comply with the City’s Consumer Protection Law and all relevant state and federal laws
  • Disclose that they do not have the ability or qualifications to provide legal advice and legal services
  • Remove statements on their website, business cards, and other print materials, and advertisements containing the attorney’s name Jack Sachs
  • Remove all advertisements that use the term “Residence by a Ten-Year Law” or otherwise make representations to the consumer about obtaining a green card or visa based on the duration of residency in the United States

“Particularly in this political climate, taking advantage of immigrant New Yorkers in need of legal assistance to pad your own pockets is unconscionable,” said Bitta Mostofi, Acting Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The New Americans Hotline can be accessed at 800-566-7636.  The only statewide immigration hotline in the country, it is available to take complaints against unscrupulous practitioners who prey on immigrants and forward these complaints to law enforcement partners for investigation.

Contact Catholic Charities NY Hotline for help:

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For Help Call 888-744-7900