D.A.Vance Announces Indictment of Fake Immigration Agent Who Defrauded Dominican Immigrants
A press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.:
Defendant Stole More Than $24,000 by Impersonating a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment and arraignment of Rafael Masso, 28, for defrauding three Dominican immigrants by impersonating a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agent and purporting to provide legal services to immigrants. The defendant has been indicted on charges of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and Unauthorized Practice of Law. The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between September 2008 and December 2008.
“Half of all complaints that come into my Office’s Immigrant Affairs Program involve individuals who fraudulently pass themselves off as attorneys, or who provide legal advice when they are not licensed to do so,” said District Attorney Vance. “These defendants concoct schemes that defraud trusting victims. The District Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute individuals who cheat and steal from immigrants.”
According to documents filed in court, MASSO worked out of his apartment in Washington Heights. The defendant told his victims that he was an “Immigration Sergeant” or “Immigration Agent,” and wore a holstered revolver, handcuffs, and what appeared to be a federal shield. Using his personal computer, MASSO pretended to look up the immigration status of each of his three victims in order to determine how to proceed with their cases. He then had the victims sign and complete what appeared to be legitimate immigration paperwork. Believing MASSO’s charade and his promise to expedite the green card application process, one victim paid MASSO approximately $11,000. A second victim paid approximately $10,000, and a third, approximately $3,500. MASSO repeatedly reassured the victims that they would receive their green cards in a short period of time. In return, the victims welcomed MASSO into their homes and invited him to dinner with their families.
MASSO left New York for Miami in October 2008, according to documents filed in court. He told his victims that his supervisors at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, also known as the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, had sent him there on assignment. In fact, MASSO did not work at 26 Federal Plaza, nor was he employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) in any capacity. He also was not authorized to appear before immigration courts.
Since December 2008, none of the three victims has been able to reach MASSO. The defendant did not file any documents with USCIS on behalf of the three victims, nor did he obtain green cards for any of them.
On February 7, 2010, MASSO was arrested in Caguas, Puerto Rico, and on June 15, 2010, he pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of grand larceny in Puerto Rico. He was sentenced to a term of incarceration of six months and one day. On August 31, 2010, MASSO was extradited to New York by members of the District Attorney’s Office’s Investigations Bureau.
The District Attorney’s Office’s investigation is continuing. Anyone who sought services from MASSO is urged to contact the District Attorney’s Immigrant Affairs Program hotline at 212-335-3600.
District Attorney Vance thanked Assistant District Attorney Melissa Pennington, who is handling the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Daysi Mejia, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigrant Affairs Program, and Thomas Wornom, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau. Investigators Alejandro Arenas, Erika Figueroa, and Angelo Pisani from the District Attorney’s Office’s Investigations Bureau assisted in the case, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Jose Flores.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the Office of Fraud Detection & National Security within USCIS, New York District; the Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program of the United States Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review; the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Human Capital; and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Principal Legal Advisor for their assistance.
RAFAEL MASSO, D.O.B. 4/7/1982
* Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, 3 counts, class D felony
* Criminal Impersonation in the First Degree, 3 counts, class E felony
* Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, 1 count, class E felony
* Practicing or Appearing as an Attorney-at-Law without Being Admitted and Registered, commonly known as “Unauthorized Practice of Law,” 3 counts, class A misdemeanor
A class D felony is punishable by a sentence of up to 7 years in prison, a class E felony is punishable by a sentence of up to 4 years in prison, and a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail.