New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. is following his predecesor’s commitment to not only cleaning up crime in the streets, but fraud in the suites as well. This mantra does not stop with white collar crime and DA Vance appears to be ready to build upon the principles and objectives of the Immigrant Affairs Program established under Robert Morgenthau. In fact, DA Vance announced yesterday an indictment of Teresa Nora Martinez for allegations of immigration fraud. If this case and others are any indication, DA Vance is fed up and displeased (dare I say incensed ?) with alleged swindlers and scammers in the arena of immigration fraud. According to the DA, Ms. Martinez stole $12,000 from immigrants after informing them she was an attorney or was associated with attorneys who could assist them with their immigration issues.
The District Attorney press release states as follows:
“The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between November 2008 and April 2009. According to statements in the court record, Martinez defrauded two Mexican immigrants by introducing herself as a licensed immigration attorney and promised to assist them with their immigration cases and to get them green cards. She told a third victim, also a Mexican immigrant, that she was working with attorneys and guaranteed that he would get a green card if he paid the demanded fees. In exchange for her services, Martinez demanded multiple payments of cash or money order from the three victims, which totaled $12,000.
As described in court, victims became suspicious when Martinez began avoiding their calls and at one point falsely told them that their immigration cases had been scheduled for court hearings on a Saturday, a day when the court is closed. They soon discovered that she was not a licensed attorney and demanded the return of their money. Martinezrefused and they reported her scheme to the District Attorney’s Office. “
A Grand Jury has indicted Ms. Martinez on two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud, one count of Practicing a Profession without a License (as an attorney) and one count of Petit Larceny. Grand Larceny in the Third Degree is a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison while the other offenses are lesser felonies and a misdemeanor.
It is interesting to note that the prosecution charged what appears to be three separate thefts (two Third Degree Grand Larcenies and one Petit Larceny) as opposed to aggregating the values. As a general rule, aggregation is only permitted when the victims are the same. However, some case law does exists permitting aggregation of multiple victims in the same scheme. Here, where the threshold to hit the greater offense of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree is property valued in excess of $50,000, it appears that it made little sense to push the law and aggregate values from different victims as part of the same scheme. Obviously, $12,000 is far below the necessary minimum for a “C” felony. In the event other alleged victims are found and the value of the thefts potentially increases, maybe the prosecution will view the case differently. Regardless, Ms. Martinez as a long road ahead.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors who served under Robert Morgenthau in both the Trial and Investigations Divisions.