Steve DiGioia

An Immigration Attorney Fraud Turned Advantageous for a NYC Man

Immigrants in New York are still trying to pursue their American dream for which they are being exploited.

A man from New York City was arrested on Jan 11 accused of falsely collecting thousands of immigration fees who were trying to fulfil their American dream by seeking permanent residency in the city. The man, Israel Ortega Cuenca, 33, described himself as an immigration attorney and collected up to $11,000 in legal fees from the desperate immigrants.


He has been charged in three cases, one is first-degree Immigrant assistance service and the second is third-degree grand larceny along with a first-degree scheme to defraud.

First-degree Immigrant assistance service fraud involves the fact that he was engaged in fraud activities for assisting immigrants by introducing himself as a false attorney.

Third-degree grand larceny involves his attempt to charge and steal a large amount of money from the unaware immigrants.

The first-degree scheme to defraud involves the fact that Cuenca intentionally sorted a plan or idea to deceive the desperate immigrants with false identities and promises.

Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney announced his charges and stated Cuenca’s fraudulency as he cleverly took advantage of immigrants’ situation leading them to a risk of deportation. The accusations were cited about court documents and statements based on the record between February 2017 and October 2019 according to Bragg’s office in a press release.

The office also said that Cuenca asked an Immigrant to file an asylum claim without merits. Along with misleading at least two people with his fraud immigration attorney identity, he kept on changing his identity as either an employee of the Spanish Consulate or as a government immigration official. In some cases, he failed to file paperwork and notify of the court dates to the immigrants who trusted him. 

The case was investigated by the Manhattan DA’s Immigrant Affairs Unit, which revealed his fraudulency from Feb 2017 up to October 2019 and he was arrested on Wednesday morning. The charges were announced in the Manhattan Supreme Court which may lead to 7 years in prison if he’s found guilty.

The Legal Procedure

To obtain American residency or the Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR), a person has to go through a complex procedure which involves the qualifications, their residency in America for up to 5 years or 3 years if married to a U.S citizen. After meeting all these eligibility criteria, an immigrant gains residency after 3 years of the complete procedure. 

Thus, the incident can be related to the tiring procedure an immigrant has to go through before becoming a resident with their desperation to obtain US citizenship which led them to fraud and betrayal as they were taken advantage of their situation by Cuenca.

Cuenca’s fraud led to many immigrants suffering as they found his way to be the easier way to grab residency in New York. The incident has led to scrutiny over actions against scammers who represent themselves as immigration lawyers and try to take advantage of the vulnerable and unaware population.


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