A man provided legal aid to immigrants seeking legal status from a Westchester Square office for 30 years without a license, according to the office of NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Edwin Rivera was arrested Monday, October 3 after a warrant was issued by Bronx Supreme Court Judge Betty Owen Stinson requiring Rivera to spend at least 30 days in jail and could be incarcerated as long as six months depending on whether he provides restitution for victims and accounting records.
Stinson found Rivera in civil and criminal contempt in August after he failed to comply with previous court orders following a case that showed he had been paid $10,000 for services from 2008 to 2015 by a customer hoping to gain legal status, as well as evidence collected by an undercover investigator, according to Schneiderman’s office.
“My office won’t tolerate fraudsters who line their pockets by defrauding some of our most vulnerable communities,” Schneiderman stated in a press release. “The arrest of Mr. Rivera underscores my office’s commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from unscrupulous immigration service providers, particularly against repeat offenders.”
Rivera had previously been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1995 while operating in Manhattan under the company name ‘Pronto Amnesty’ for defrauding the former department of Immigration and Natural Services.
Rivera operated out of an office located at 1428 Zerega Avenue near the corner of Westchester Avenue.
His business was formerly known as Inmigracion Hoy News Today, but that name does not appear anywhere on the building’s façade.
Signs for ‘HBP Accounting,’ or and ‘HBP Student Grant Research’ can be seen, however, and display the same business phone number as Inmigracion Hoy News Today.
The company’s website, hbpac
The website also states the company is a division of Homeward Bound Program For Children, an organization also associated with Rivera located at the same address.
The Zerega Avenue corner office was closed Monday, but neighbors said the office had been open as recently as the prior week.
According to Schneiderman’s office, Rivera had advertised that the ‘Dream Act’ had been enacted back in 2003 and offered to file applications on behalf of unknowing customers for $1,500.
The Dream Act has not, in fact, been enacted, and may never be enacted in its current form.
Even after being ordered by state courts in 2005 to stop the false advertising and again to cease providing immigration services in 2008, Rivera continued bilking customers, netting at least $60,000, according to court documents.
Rivera did not offer refunds for paper work that was improperly completed or left incomplete, sometimes leaving a customer’s legal status in even worse shape than when they first sought help, according to Schneiderman’s office.
Victims of immigration consultant frauds are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at (800) 771-7755 or at www.ag.ny.gov.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department maintains a list of authorized legal aid assistance providers on its website, www.uscis.gov.
The office can also be reached at (800) 375-5283.