D.A. Vance Announces Guilty Plea in Fake Immigration Lawyer Case

A press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.:

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of VICTOR ESPINAL to charges of grand larceny, forgery, scheme to defraud, and unauthorized practice of law in New York State Supreme Court. ESPINAL, who is not a licensed attorney in the United States, is charged with fraudulently taking money for legal advice on immigration issues.

“The Office works diligently to prosecute and prevent fraud that targets the immigrant community,” said District Attorney Vance. “Giving unlicensed legal advice, particularly to vulnerable victims, is not only unacceptable, it’s a crime. This dishonest and irresponsible behavior disproportionately affects the City’s immigrant community and will not be tolerated.” 

ESPINAL pled guilty to fraudulently offering legal advice from 1995 to 2009. He maintained “law offices” at 370 7th Avenue, suite 815, in Manhattan. According to court documents, he portrayed himself as an attorney working for the “Immigrant Affairs Office, N.Y. Legal Defense Unit, Licensed U.S. Attorneys” even though he was never registered to practice law in the United States. In many instances, victims paid ESPINAL for services that he never rendered. He promised his victims assistance with obtaining green cards, work permits, or immigration visas. He took their money and then failed to follow through with the promised services. 

District Attorney Vance thanked the Office of Fraud Detection & National Security, within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, New York District; the Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program, Executive Office for Immigration Review; and the New York Immigration Coalition for their assistance. 

This case was handled by the Office’s Immigrant Affairs Program, which is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting frauds committed against immigrants. Assistant District Attorneys Joanne Siegmund, Melissa Pennington and Daysi Mejia investigated and prosecuted this case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wornom, Special Prosecutions Bureau Chief and Assistant District Attorney, Daysi Mejia, Attorney In Charge of the Immigrant Affairs Program. Investigator Erika Figueroa and Investigator Alejandro Arenas, District Attorney’s Investigation Bureau, assisted in the investigation. 

Defendant Information:

VICTOR ESPINAL, 3/6/49
3447 Irwin Avenue,
Bronx, NY

Charges:

• Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony
• Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony
• Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony
• Unauthorized Practice of Law, a class A misdemeanor

A class D felony is punishable by up to 7 years in prison, a class E felony is punishable by up to 4 years in prison, a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail.

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