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A man posed as an immigration lawyer in New York and took huge amounts of money from migrants.


Alina Prikhodko

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Pablo Israel Ortega Cuenca posed as an immigration lawyer. The man provided fake legal services and defrauded his clients out of tens of thousands of dollars. Attorney General Manhattan Alvin L. Bragg Jr. filed formal charges on January 11.

Cuenca was charged with two counts of providing immigration services in the first degree, two counts of second-degree theft and one count of first-degree dealing with intent to defraud.

According to court documents, from February 2017 to October 2019, he defrauded clients by misleading them about his professional status and charging unreasonable legal fees for certain immigration applications. In some cases, he advised filing meritless asylum claims, and in others, he deliberately failed to file applications or was not informed of trial dates.

Cuenca tricked at least two people into believing he was an immigration lawyer. In other cases, he presented himself as an employee of the Center for Migration Studies, the Spanish Consulate, or a government immigration official. Based on these representations and the trust of his clients, he defrauded over $11 for providing fraudulent legal services.

On the subject: Choosing an immigration lawyer: how to avoid becoming a victim of scammers

City officials are asking migrants to exercise caution when seeking legal services, including asking the lawyer for his or her license. With the new help card, you can easily find free legal help, find out where a lawyer is registered and check whether disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against him.

Screenshot from the site

Manhattan Immigration Services encourages potential victims of fraud to contact its immigration hotline at 212-335-3600 or WhatsApp at 347-371-0877. Applications are welcome regardless of immigration status.

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