ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday filed for a contempt order against an alleged phony lawyer who is accused of scamming immigrants.
Vincent Gonzalez is accused of violating a 2012 court order and continuing to provide legal advice and immigration services to the Latino immigration community – defrauding immigrants out of legal fees and in least 527 court appearance since 2010, according to Schneiderman’s office.
Gonzalez faces millions of dollars in penalties, fines, and restitution, as well as possible imprisonment, Schneiderman’s office said.
“It’s unconscionable that a scammer would prey on immigrants in order to make a quick buck – and it’s even more egregious to continue to do so in violation of a court order,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “With fear on the rise in communities across the state, my office won’t hesitate to use all tools at our disposal to bring to justice those who try to defraud New York’s immigrant families.”
An investigation in 2010 found that Gonzalez had been providing phony immigration services, and the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau secured a court order and judgment in New York Supreme Court against Gonzalez and his company, Immigration Community Service Corporation, according to Schneiderman’s office.
He was ordered to pay two civil penalties totaling $6.12 million, and $127,635 in restitution and compensatory damages to people harmed by his alleged illegal conduct, as well as the cost of the judicial proceeding, according to Schneiderman’s office.
But beginning in 2015, the Attorney General’s office received new complaints claiming that Gonzalez was again representing himself as an immigration attorney and promising to perform legal services for immigration and criminal cases, according to Schneiderman’s office.
This time, Gonzalez was running a company called the Good-Man Society Club, located at 930 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, according to Schneiderman’s office.
The Attorney General’s office launched a new investigation and found that that the Good-Man Society Club was offering legal services. The AG’s office sent went on to conduct two undercover operations confirming that Gonzalez was once again providing legal advice, according to Schneiderman’s office.
Gonzalez had been involved with at least 527 immigration matters since 2010, and allegedly told one victim he could provide immigration-related services and assist in a pending criminal case, according to Schneiderman’s office. Gonzalez allegedly told the victim that he would charge $1,500 as an investigation fee; $5,000 as an initial retainer and another $8,000 to complete the criminal case; and an additional $3,000 for bail if the victim were to be arrested, according to Schneiderman’s office.
The victim paid $650 toward the investigation fee, but then became skeptical and quit communicating with Gonzalez, prosecutors said.