The fraud is perpetrated by luring Haitian nationals to pay thousands of dollars for immigration services: from temporary protection status to that of full legal immigrant in the U.S. The scammers, however, are neither the licensed attorneys they purport to be, nor has the federal government accredited them to perform the immigration services that they sell.
State officials say these unauthorized agents collect hopeful victims' money, sometimes never even checking the applicant's eligibility for the benefits they claim the applicants will obtain.
Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman shut down two such phony operations: Rincher's Bookstore (also known, among many other names, as the Haitian American Entrepreneur's Group, LLC), and Profimax, Inc.
"It is unconscionable that these companies defrauded victims of the Haiti earthquake just to make a quick buck," Schneiderman said. "We will continue working aggressively to root out fraud wherever it exists, and that includes bringing those who prey on the immigrant community to justice."
Under an agreement with the state, the shuttered companies will do no more immigrant-related business, and pay more than $25,000 in fines, collectively. Furthermore, they must notify all their former and current clients that they have closed, and send each of them the files created around their applications.
Schneiderman's office was unable to offer immediate comment on the status of the victims in this case.
Prospective immigrants to the U.S. can take steps to protect themselves from similar acts of fraud. Check the name of immigration representatives for proper accreditation with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The Action Center page of the EOIR website can help.
Applicants should avoid signing any blank paperwork, and they should never let anyone keep their original documents. Obtain a receipt for any fees you pay in the process, and avoid making any such payments online. Get a written copy of everything pertaining to your application.
If you think you're a victim of immigration fraud, the EOIR's general counsel handles these kinds of complaints at: (703) 305-0470.
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