7 companies offering fraudulent legal services to immigrants shut down

After months of investigation into immigration fraud, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo last week shut down seven companies and sued two other organizations for providing fraudulent legal services to immigrants.

These companies provided legal advice to immigrants without being licensed attorneys or having the proper accreditation. They illegally filed immigration petitions with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of immigrants and their family members, jeopardizing their efforts to achieve legal status. In addition, they failed to provide their clients with contracts written in both the individual's native language and English, as required by law.

The 7 closed companies are:

(1) 'Centro Santa Ana, Inc.' and Ana Lucia Baquero, of Queens; (2) 'Margo's Immigration Services' and Margarita Davidov, also known as Margo Davidov, of Queens; (3) 'Miguel Fittipaldi, J.D., Ltd.' and Miguel Fittipaldi, of Manhattan; (4) Arthur C. Hurwitz, of Manhattan; (5) 'Oficina Legal Para Hispanos, P.C.' and Geoffrey S. Stewart, of Manhattan; (6) 'Asilos' and Camilo Perdomo, of Queens; and (7) 'Misión Hispana, Inc.' and Mayra Liz, of Queens.

These companies and their respective owners are permanently barred from operating any immigration services business and shall collectively pay $370,000 in fines to the State of New York.

As a result of the legal agreements reached by the Attorney General's Office, these companies will also be required to notify all former and current clients in writing that they will no longer provide immigration-related services. Individuals who have used these companies may be eligible to receive monetary restitution for using these fraudulent businesses. These companies abused hundreds of immigrants.

In addition, the Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit against other organizations that are providing fraudulent legal services to immigrants in order to shut down and fine those businesses as well.

The first lawsuit is against 4 companies that have been illegally providing unauthorized legal services to immigrants: 'Immigration Today', 'Immigration Today News Today', 'Forensic Immigration Law', and 'Immigration Accounting Service', all controlled by Edwin Rivera of the Bronx. These companies provided unauthorized legal advice to thousands of people throughout New York City and Long Island.

The other lawsuit is against Thomas N. Toscano, a Queens attorney. Toscano advertised himself as an immigration attorney but had his employees, who are not attorneys, handling cases and giving legal advice. Many of the applications submitted to immigration were later denied by immigration authorities.

The illegal actions of organizations that provide fraudulent immigration services have disastrous consequences for immigrant communities. In addition to being forced to pay substantial fees, victims and their families are put at risk of suffering permanent harm as a result of receiving improper immigration-related legal advice. A large number of individuals who followed the advice of fraudulent organizations have been subject to deportation due to inadequate or negligent legal representation.

Under state and federal law, only attorneys or accredited representatives may represent individuals before immigration authorities.

If you have been a victim of fraud while seeking immigration relief in New York State, you may contact the Office of the Attorney General through the Immigration Fraud Unit's Immigration Services Fraud Hotline at 1-(866)-390-2992. You may also visit the following website  https://www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/civil_rights/immigration_fraud/about_sp.html

You can read more details about the New York Attorney General's investigation by clicking here.