New Life, New Problems

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A person lacking legal status is vulnerable to a wide range of abusive behavior, including fraud. Imagine making the discovery that a person, whom you’d believed to be a police officer offering assistance with your green card, is actually a con artist? A press release by the King’s County District Attorney’s office details a Brooklyn-based crime ring that coerced immigrants into forking over more than $8,000, by misrepresenting themselves and offering fraudulent assistance with government documents related to the immigrants’ legal status. (Maybe no one told them that the Big Apple could have some big worms.)

Throughout the summer of 2015, the three defendants worked as a group to defraud some of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable—and hidden—residents. According to authorities, a scammer impersonating a Sergeant with the New York Police Department would establish repertoire with immigrants, by pretending to solicit donations to the Police Department. (That takes some moxie.) Together with a cohort, he would then coerce them into giving him cash to help with documentation surrounding their legal status. Court documents detail how one of the scammers went as far as to threaten one immigrant with deportation if she did not hand over $6,000 that they had falsely claimed was necessary to address an issue with her husband’s documents. (No wonder a couple of the defendants later skipped town—who would want to get busted by a New York City police officer for impersonating a New York City police officer?)

As New York City is one of the world’s most diverse cities, the District Attorney’s office runs an Immigration Fraud Unit, which brought this case before a judge after an investigation by the City Police Department. All three defendants pleaded guilty to related charges after two of them were extradited from Pennsylvania: one defendant was sentenced to one to three years in prison for third-degree grand larceny; another was sentenced to conditional discharge for first-degree attempted criminal impersonation; the third was also sentenced to conditional discharge for charges of second-degree criminal impersonation. (Now make sure the phony police uniform stays in the evidence locker.)

Immigrants who have been criminally victimized don’t always see or understand the avenue for legal recourse, and thus are far less likely to report a crime. This creates opportunities for ”real” citizens to exploit immigrants’ hopes, dreams and fears. Congratulations to authorities for bringing such scammers to justice.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”Three Sentenced For Targeting Immigrants in Green Card Scam,” a press release published by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office on March 30, 2016.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that three defendants have been sentenced in connection with a scheme in which they stole more than $8,000 from two victims by falsely promising to help them obtain green cards and other government documents. Two of the defendants were arrested in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and extradited to Brooklyn in November 2015. The defendants, Richard Gomez, 44, and Marisol Mercado, 43, were apprehended in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on October 23, 2015 and returned to Brooklyn on November 9, 2015.

Defendant Gomez was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of one to three years imprisonment following his guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of third-degree grand larceny. Defendant Mercado was sentenced to a conditional discharge following her guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of first-degree attempted criminal impersonation. A third defendant, Francisco Mercado, was also sentenced to conditional discharge following his guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of second-degree criminal impersonation.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.