Photo Courtesy: Manhattan DA’s Office
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the sentencing of New York City-based immigration lawyer, CARLOS MORENO, 61, for unlicensed practice of law, through which he collected thousands of dollars in legal fees from undocumented immigrants. Between September 2017 – when Moreno was suspended from the bar – and late September 2018, Moreno took on new clients, practiced law, and gave legal advice to scores of undocumented immigrants. In some instances, even predating his suspension, MORENO defrauded clients by falsely claiming that undocumented immigrants who have resided in the United States for over a decade could secure legal status, a fraud known as the “10-Year Green Card Scam.” As a result, some of his clients were unknowingly placed at risk of removal from the U.S. MORENO pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Practice of Law by an Attorney who has been Disbarred, Suspended, or Convicted of a Felony. He was sentenced to 1-3 years in state prison.
“These New Yorkers sought legal services from Mr. Moreno in order to apply for permanent residency in the place they already call home. Instead, he took their fees and placed them in situations that put them at risk of deportation,” said District Attorney Bragg. “If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of this type of fraud, we urge you to call our office’s Immigrant Affairs Unit hotline at (212) 335-3600. Interpreters are available to assist non-native English speakers and we encourage all to reach out regardless of immigration status.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, from August 2015 to September 2018, MORENO misled two clients into believing that he, as their attorney, could submit an application for permanent residency based on their 10 years of living in the United States. In both cases, he submitted an asylum application without their knowledge or consent. MORENO failed to inform these clients that the meritless asylum application that he submitted would be rejected and would trigger removal proceedings.
Despite being suspended from practicing law in 2017, MORENO continued to act as an attorney for clients. One client hired him in August 2015 and paid approximately $3,100 in fees. In May 2018, more than a year after his suspension, he continued to represent this client without informing him that he was not permitted to practice law. On May 30, 2018, he met with this client in his Manhattan office, gave him legal advice, and misrepresented the status of the client’s immigration case. The second client hired MORENO as her attorney in September 2017 – six months after he was suspended – and paid him $3,500 in legal fees. In total, MORENO received over $140,000 in legal fees from multiple clients.
Assistant District Attorney and Immigrant Affairs Unit Chief Luis Morales handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Hope Korenstein (Deputy Bureau Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau), Kofi Sansculotte (Bureau Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau), Christopher Conroy (Senior Advisor to the Investigation Division) and Susan Hoffinger (Chief of the Investigations Division). Deputy General Counsel and former Deputy Chief of the Investigation Division Gloria Garcia also supervised. Senior Investigators Miguel Pena and Senior Investigator Maria Coyt-Freda assisted with the prosecution. The Immigrant Affairs Unit also assisted with the case, including Program Coordinator Samantha Flores, Litigation Support Unit Chief Shannon Goldberg and Civil Litigation Unit Deputy Unit Chief Lynn Goodman.
NEW YORK CITY, NY
- Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, one count
- Practice of Law by an Attorney who has been Disbarred, Suspended, or Convicted of a Felony, a class A misdemeanor, one count
- 1-3 years state prison for Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree
- 1 year to run concurrent with the above for Practice of Law by an Attorney who has been Disbarred, Suspended, or Convicted of a Felony