SEPTEMBER 2002

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Immigrant Legal Scam
From World Journal
August 12, 2002

Numerous immigrant legal scams in Chinatown are now under investigation after legal action was taken against Robert and Sheery Porges, who pleaded guilty to immigrant legal scams. An illegal Chinese immigrant, with the surname Ho, recently reported to the police that another immigration service center in Chinatown has defrauded more than $10,000 from him and there are more than 10 victims like him.

The Fifthth Precint in New York City has launched a series of investigations into the activities of this law firm. The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) said yesterday that it has enough manpower and resources to investigate the scams, and that such scams also exist in the Hispanic communities.

The department warned law firms to steer away from illegal dealings and also called on consumers to be extra cautious in selecting immigration legal services from the newspapers and other publications.

Ho, who has lived and worked illegally in New York City for 10 years, saw an advertisement on a Chinese-language newspaper about an immigration legal service center on Grand Street in Chinatown and inquired about a green card application. He said that the owner, with the surname Chang, charged him $10,000 in advance for a greencard application. He requested that the police not reveal his name so as to ensure his protection, since he saw the owner with a gun under his shirt.

In mid June, Ho said, Chang’s partner, with the surname Li, took him and two other victims to Philadelphia to get their fingerprints. He added that he was told by Li that he would be getting a greencard in the registered mail from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

According to Ho, from June to August, Li continued to ask him to pay several extra thousand dollars, and claimed to be using the money to bribe INS officials while telling him that he would be getting his greencard soon. Ho said all transactions were made in public places, including parks and restaurants.

However, Ho and other victims have not heard from the law firm since. After a phone call with Li last week, the victims have not been able to reach either Li or Chang, and there is no one in their Chinatown office.

Ho has sought help from the 5th Precint and told the detectives that there are at least 10 other victims.

Shi Fu-teh, a detective who is in charge of the case, has confirmed with the INS that the victims’ greencard applications do not exist, and is waiting for the firm’s record of previous greencard applications. However, the police have encountered a lot of difficulties in the investigation because the victims have never received any kind of receipt or document.

[The recent scams have bright the INS and DCA to their attention.]–perhaps "The recent scams have been brought to the attention of the INS and the DCA." Gina Improta, a DCA spokesperson, said yesterday that it would be scouring the city’s ethnic press, including the Chinese-language press to see whether the contents of immigration ads match their services. Violations will result in penalties.

Improta said that the inspections would verify the firm’s license to practice law and whether the service matches the ad contents. But she added that only those who put out false ads would be punished because they use the press to conduct scams, but the presses that carry those ads will be spared.

The DCA also called on consumers to check if the lawyers are licensed before consulting them, and that a written contract should be signed if they are applying for immigration through service centers instead of directly through a lawyer. In addition, the contract should clearly state all rights and obligations and that a detailed budget should be laid out before the signing. The department also reminds consumers that they should always keep a copy of all documents.

For more inquiries, Improta said that consumers may seek help from the New York City Bar Association at (212) 626-7373. To report a scam, call the DCA hotline at (212) 487-4444

 

Translated From Chinese by Larry Tung

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