THE BRONX — After more than a decade of thumbing his nose at the law, an unrepentant and phony immigration lawyer will head back to jail for defrauding his vulnerable immigrant clients out of tens of thousands of dollars, according to the New York Attorney General.
Investigators with AG Eric Schneiderman began investigating Bronxite Edwin Rivera in 2004 after getting a tip that he had put out an advertisement in a Spanish language newspaper saying that the Dream Act had passed and fabricating an application process for it, charging $1,500 per application, officials said.
The Dream Act, which has yet to pass into law, would give students who grew up in the United States permanent resident status after completing two years of college or military service, according to the American Immigration Council.
A November 2005 court order prohibited Rivera from engaging in deceptive services and false advertising, but he ignored this ruling, and another court order was issued in July 2008 banning him from providing any type of immigration services throughout New York State, according to the AG.
However, Rivera ignored this as well and was sent to jail in 2009 and in 2011 after being held in contempt for violating such orders, according to Schneiderman.
New York Supreme Court Justice Betty Owen Stinson found him in civil and criminal contempt again for failing to comply with previous court orders on Aug. 21.
Stinson issued an order for Rivera's arrest, and he was arrested on Monday. He will be required to spend at least 30 days and up to six months behind bars, and he must repay $34,331 in fines and restitution to his clients.
He also must provide the Attorney General's Office with a full accounting of his clients and the fees they paid, and he may be forced to repay additional money once he turns this in.
The court based its decision on a client who paid Rivera $10,000 from 2008 to 2015 and evidence gathered from an undercover investigator, according to the AG's office.
Rivera, who could not be reached for comment, ran an office in The Bronx called "Inmigracion Hoy News Today," and applicants would pay him large sums of money to prepare immigration applications only to find that when the applications were not filed or filed improperly, he would not issue anyone a refund, officials said.
“My office won’t tolerate fraudsters who line their pockets by defrauding some of our most vulnerable communities,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The arrest of Mr. Rivera underscores my office’s commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from unscrupulous immigration service providers, particularly against repeat offenders.”