Rivera Has Collected Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars In Undeserved Fees For Immigration Work He Was Never Qualified To Perform
Schneiderman: Edwin Rivera Has Demonstrated A Blatant Disregard For The Law And We Are Sending Him To Jail
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the arrest of Edwin Rivera, the operator of a Bronx accounting office formerly known as “Inmigracion Hoy News Today.” Rivera has represented himself as an attorney with over thirty years of experience and offered immigration services to undocumented consumers seeking assistance with the immigration status adjustment process. Immigrants who retained Rivera discovered that he had misrepresented the law, was not a licensed attorney, and in many cases, had not performed the services promised. A warrant for Mr. Rivera’s arrest was issued by Bronx Supreme Court Judge Justice Betty Owen Stinson. The order provides that Rivera spend at least 30 days in jail and up to 6 months contingent on when he pays the restitution to the victims and provides the accounting.
“My office won’t tolerate fraudsters who line their pockets by defrauding some of our most vulnerable communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The arrest of Mr. Rivera underscores my office’s commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from unscrupulous immigration service providers, particularly against repeat offenders.”
On August 21, 2016, New York Supreme Court Justice Betty Owen Stinson found Rivera in civil and criminal contempt for failing to comply with the Court’s previous orders. The Court’s decision is based upon a complainant who paid Rivera $10,000 and relied on his services from 2008 through 2015, and evidence gathered by an undercover investigator. Rivera has been ordered to serve up to six months in prison and repay $34,331 in fines and restitution to his victims. He has also been ordered to provide an accounting of his customers as well as all fees paid by them to the Attorney General’s office.
The Attorney General’s office first commenced an investigation into Rivera in 2004 when the office received a tip that Rivera was advertising in a Spanish language newspaper that the Dream Act had been enacted in November 2003 and fabricated an application process. The Dream Act is still pending before Congress. Rivera charged $1,500 per Dream Act application. On November 18, 2005, the Court issued an order prohibiting Rivera from engaging in false advertising and deceptive services. Rivera continued to do so, and on July 29, 2008, the Court issued an order explicitly prohibiting Mr. Rivera from providing immigration services of any kind in New York State. Rivera continued to brazenly defy the Court’s orders and duped unsuspecting immigrants out of at least $60,000 in alleged legal fees.
The Attorney General’s investigation found that applicants paid Mr. Rivera significant sums to prepare immigration applications in hopes that it would lead to lawful permanent residency in the United States. However, when applications were filed improperly, or not at all, Rivera consistently refused to issue refunds to consumers. In many cases, the applicants found themselves in worse positions than before they sought Rivera’s assistance.
Rivera’s recidivism dates back to the mid 1990’s when he was prosecuted by the United Sates Attorney’s Office in Manhattan for defrauding the then Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Attorney General Schneiderman has issued the following recommendations for consumers seeking immigration assistance:
- Check with the NYS Office of Court Administration Attorney Registration Unit at (212)428-2800 to verify if someone claiming to be an attorney licensed in New York is in fact admitted to practice in NY and registered with NY's Unified Court System.
- Make sure any representation agreement is made in writing and that you understand all the terms before signing. The agreement must be in the language understood by the consumer and list all fees and the scope of the representation.
- Do not give the consultant any original documents. Make sure you are given a copy of any agreement and ask that it be translated if the negotiation was in another language.
- Keep detailed records of any payments which should be made by check or credit card if possible, and ask for a signed receipt.
- Be wary of individuals offering inside connections with immigration authorities, or who otherwise suggest that they are able to guarantee results.
- Beware of notario fraud. Notaries public may take advantage of the literal Spanish translation of their title, notario público, a title describing an attorney in many Latin American countries. By taking advantage of the confusion, immigration consultants fraudulently claim expertise or promise results that they simply cannot deliver.
Consumers who have been victims immigration consultant frauds are urged to contact the New York State Attorney General's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755 or through the OAG's Web site www.ag.NY.gov.
This case was investigated by Senior Investigators Luis Carter and Edward Ortiz. Investigators Ismael Hernandez, Andres Rodriguez, Steve Pratt, and David Negron, all assisted in the investigation. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.