New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced lawsuits against several companies for targeting the Haitian community with fraudulent immigration services after the January earthquake that devastated much of the island nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.
The lawsuits allege the companies and their owners, who are not lawyers, have been providing legal advice and services to Haitian immigrants illegally. The owners are prohibited from providing legal advice or representing anyone before immigration authorities.
Cuomo’s lawsuit’s name Chay Pa Lou Community Center Inc., Delegue Tax Consultant Inc., and their owner and operator Jean Michel, and Rincher’s Multi-Service and their owners and operators Deslande Seixas-Rincher and Sharlene Seixas-Rincher. The companies are located in Brooklyn.
After the earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security allowed Haitian citizens in the United States to seek Temporary Protected Status to stay in the country for 18 months. After the announcement, Cuomo’s office received complaints that Haitian immigrants were being targeted through advertisements by companies offering fraudulent and illegal immigration services at exorbitant prices.
The AG’s investigation revealed the companies charged Haitian immigrants for processing immigration applications that could be filed for free through a waiver or for a nominal fee. The companies also charged some immigrants for processing applications even when they were not eligible to stay in the United States. In some cases, some immigrants paid for application processing and legal services that never were provided.
The lawsuits seek to permanently shut down the companies and prevent them from providing immigration legal services, they also seek restitution for the victims, who in most cases have paid thousands of dollars for services the companies were not authorized to provide or did not provide. The AG’s office is authorized to seek an injunction, penalties of up to $7,500 per violation and restitution.
Victims of immigration assistance fraud are asked to contact the AG’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or visit www.ag.ny.gov.