It seems like “immigration fraud” and individuals purporting to be attorneys is the crime du jour in Manhattan and New York City lately. The most recent individual accused of a fraudulent immigration scheme is Wilmer Rivera Melendez. According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Melendez purported to provide immigration services to New Yorkers as an employee of W&R Immigration Services. Mr. Melendez claimed that W&R, an alleged non-profit organization located in Covington, Georgia, could assist people in immigration issues. It is even alleged that Mr. Melendez filed applications and petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on behalf of undocumented individuals. These individuals were allegedly fooled into believing Mr. Melendez had practiced law for 20 years and, as a result, agreed to wire money into Mr. Melendez’s bank account.
According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office:
” As a part of his representation, Mr. Melendez required his clients to fill out and sign a Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative, which gave him the authority to represent them in court proceedings regarding immigration matters. Mr. Melendez then promised that he could obtain a green card for them within two years by filing for Withholding of Removal, a status which gives a holder permission to remain in the U.S. until further notice. This promise is false because a person granted Withholding of Removal can never obtain a green card.”
“Mr. Melendez explained that USCIS would schedule an interview to question the client about his/her claim. While the petition for Withholding of Removal is pending, he explained, the clients could receive a work permit after 150 days had passed since the filing of the withholding petition. In order to ensure that the 150 days elapsed, Mr. Melendez rescheduled the interview numerous times. However, this rescheduling did not count towards the 150-day calculation because the petitioner, not the federal government, caused the delay. After the individuals failed to attend the interview a few times, their cases were sent to an immigration judge, and deportation hearings were scheduled. When individuals questioned Mr. Melendez about their cases, he refused to take their telephone calls and/or changed his telephone number.”
“Mr. Melendez is not a licensed attorney in New York or Georgia. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) confirmed that Mr. Melendez is not an accredited representative authorized to represent clients before USCIS or the immigration courts. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration Customs Enforcement has confirmed that Mr. Melendez has never been employed by DHS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). “
Mr.Melendez has been indicted on one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, class E felonies punishable by up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison; one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail; and six counts of Practicing or Appearing As An Attorney-At-Law Without Being Admitted and Registered, a Judiciary Law misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
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