By Shayna Jacobs
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — The crisis in Haiti has sparked a network of con artists to offer phony legal services for Haitian immigrants here, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. warned on Tuesday.
Following the deadly natural disaster, the U.S. government offered Temporary Protective Status to eligible Haitian immigrants, a move that could cause people to seek legal advice and open the door to shady dealings.
Complaints have already begun to roll into the the DA's community affairs bureau, and potential scammers are under investigation, Vance said.
"This office has a special responsibility to protect immigrant populations," Vance said at a press conference Tuesday.
The perpetrators of immigration-related scams are often themselves members of the targeted community. Immigrants sometimes put their faith in hustlers of their own nationality and pay for services and application forms that the government provides for free, Vance said.
Haiti's Consul General Felix Augustin said misinformation is "rampant" in the city's Haitian communities.
"They know full well that the Haitian community is in need," Augustin said of the swindlers.
Vance, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, organized a free event for this coming weekend for Haitians looking for immigration services and programs.
Saturday's event is at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's Synod Hall from 2. p.m. to 5 p.m. where Legal Aid attorneys and other resources will be available.