The state of New York is moving to shut down an immigration scam that targeted and defrauded over a dozen immigrants out of tens of thousands of dollars.
According to the complaint, Queens businesswoman Miriam Mercedes Hernandez would charge her victims up to $15,000 in exchange for help in securing permanent residence. She allegedly told clients she had the connections necessary to get their status adjusted within eight months.
After eight months, however, her victims received none of the legal documentation they were promised. When they confronted Hernandez, she allegedly threatened to call the authorities if they complained to anyone. The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo seeks to bar her immediately from continuing her fraudulent business practice, as well as secure restitution for the victims and penalties and costs for violating New York law.
"This city owes its history and its heritage to the immigrants who built it," said Cuomo. He called the case, "a classic example of fraud — lying, cheating and exploiting people trying to permanently make this country their home."
Hernandez is charged with engaging in fraud and deceptive practices, as well as violating New York civil rights laws and the New York Immigrant Assistance Service Provider Law.
She is said to have falsely promised assistance to over a dozen individuals seeking legal status. In order to secure her services, she would on occasion tell her clients that she would only help them if they could bring her up to ten additional clients. She would then charge them all up to $7,500 as an initial fee, and up to $15,000 per person in total in exchange for the promise of having their status adjusted within eight months. According to the complaint, Hernandez took the fees from her victims but never performed the services promised.
The lawsuit is a result of the Cuomo's investigation into allegations that immigrants and their families are being targeted for fraudulent and unauthorized immigration related services with false promises of United States legal permanent residency and/or citizenship.
The investigation has found that these individuals target specific ethnic communities through word of mouth and advertisements. Victims of immigration fraud lose thousands of dollars and risk being accused of filing false documents with the immigration authorities or becoming subject to deportation proceedings.