NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he has filed a series of lawsuits against immigration service companies that allegedly targeted and defrauded Haitians impacted by the recent earthquake.
Those named in the lawsuit include Chay Pa Lou Community Center, Inc.; Delegue Tax Consultant, Inc., and owner and operator Jean Michel; and Rincher's Multi-Service, also known as Rincher Bookstore, Rincher Associates and Haitian American Entrepreneur's Group LLC, and owners and operators Deslande Seixas-Rincher and Sharlene Seixas-Rincher. All of the companies are located in Brooklyn.
After an earthquake devastated much of the Haitian capital region in January, the United States Department of Homeland Security allowed Haitian citizens in the United States to seek Temporary Protected Status for 18 months. Cuomo claims that many of these companies offered fraudulent immigration services to these Haitian immigrants.
The lawsuits charge the companies and their owners with allegedly providing legal advice and services to Haitian immigrants, although none of them are lawyers. State law prohibits non-lawyers from providing legal advice or representing anyone before immigration authorities.
"In light of the recent devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, New York's Haitian residents have sadly been a target for immigration scams, bringing further pain to a community that has already suffered so much," Cuomo said.
"These cases are a part of my office's ongoing crackdown on immigration scams throughout New York and I urge anyone who has been affected by this type of fraud to contact my office."
The suits also charge the companies with charging Haitian immigrants large fees for processing immigration applications even though they could be filed for free through a waiver. The companies also charged some immigrants for processing applications, even if they were not eligible to stay in the United States, Cuomo says.
Cuomo is seeking to permanently shut down these companies and prevent them from providing immigration legal services. The suit also seeks restitution for the victims who have paid thousands of dollars for legal services that the companies were not allowed to, and often didn't, provide.