For Immediate Release:
Thursday, April 18, 2019

Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Files Second Lawsuit Against Business That Continues to Prey on Immigrant New Yorkers

NEW YORK, NY – Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)—recently renamed the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP)—Commissioner Lorelei Salas today, during Immigrant Heritage Week, announced that DCWP has filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court against Angel G. Buitron, Buitron Offices & Associates, Susana T. Abarca, and the Law Office of Susana Abarca, PLLC for allegedly using a multi-part scheme to deceive immigrant consumers. DCWP is seeking a court order to permanently stop the illegal business practices and to prevent Buitron from acting as an immigration assistance service provider. DCWP is also seeking that they return money to consumers, create a consumer restitution fund for other victims, surrender any profits, and pay civil penalties for violations of the City’s Consumer Protection Law.

“To prey on the fears of immigrants in today’s political climate is not only illegal, it’s just plain cruel,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “To add insult to injury, Buitron preys on his fellow Ecuadorians and has continued to after being caught once. His excuses and continued illegal activity to scam immigrant New Yorkers will not be tolerated—not in New York City. We will continue to pursue him—and any other scammers like him—until he is stopped.”

As alleged in DCWP’s complaint, Buitron, with Abarca’s assistance, has continued to target immigrants—in particular Ecuadorians—by using deceptive marketing to trick them into believing that Buitron and his office are lawyers, as exemplified by Buitron’s business card:
example of deceptive marketing by Buitron's business card that shows images that make it seem like they are lawyers
Once Buitron lures immigrants to his office in Jackson Heights, he continues the deception by touting himself as a renowned attorney who only handles complex immigration cases—even though he has never been licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction.

Buitron also claims to understand the immigrants’ circumstances because he, too, is of Ecuadorian descent. Despite conducting business in Spanish, he has consumers sign papers in English without translation and charges as much as $30,000 with promises of citizenship. Buitron takes the consumers’ personal, confidential information and, without their knowledge, shares it with Abarca because he cannot appear in court. Abarca then appears in court on the immigrants’ behalf without ever meeting or speaking with them. Most immigrants never discover the deception but those who do, are threatened with physical violence and/or to be reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On top of all this, consumers sometimes pay thousands of dollars to Buitron for services they never receive.

“Immigrant New Yorkers deserve high-quality, affordable legal services, not scams with life-changing consequences,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “I’m proud of the repeated actions Commissioner Salas and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection have taken to hold scammers like these accountable. Any New Yorker in need can get safe, City-funded immigration legal by calling 311 and saying ‘ActionNYC.’”

“The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s efforts to stop fraud and exploitation in immigrant communities are important and critical, particularly at this time of heightened vulnerability,” said Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities Community Services. “As managers of the New Americans Hotline, which has been tasked by New York State to facilitate complaints from immigrants victimized by dishonest and criminal actors, we are encouraged by these enforcement actions, which restore dignity and security among those whom we seek to welcome.”

This is not DCWP’s first attempt to stop the Defendants’ illegal conduct. In 2018, Buitron entered into a settlement agreement to resolve nearly identical violations. But, DCWP discovered that he and his associates never stopped the illegal activity. This lawsuit intends to stop his deception permanently.

DCWP warns New Yorkers about illegal and predatory immigration assistance providers who prey on vulnerable New Yorkers’ fear by luring them with false promises of work authorization, green cards, or citizenship when they may not be qualified to provide the services and do so in exchange for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of their hard-earned dollars. Consumers can use trusted resources for immigration assistance through City-supported legal services programs such as ActionNYC, the Immigrant Opportunity Initiative, Key to the City, and NYCitizenship.

Additional information for immigrants:
  • Do not believe any provider that claims to have special influence with immigration authorities.
  • In New York State, a notary public, or notario público, is not an attorney. A notary public cannot give legal advice, draft legal papers, or review documents for legality.
  • If someone is not an authorized immigration service provider, they can only read the form to you, translate, and write down information that you provide.
  • Get a second opinion before filling out any immigration applications.

We encourage consumers who have witnessed deceptive immigration services to file a complaint about “false advertising” at nyc.gov/dca or by calling 311. Consumers can also visit our website to get tips on immigration service assistance (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish and Urdu), as well as the City’s free immigration services (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Urdu, and several other languages).

Everyone, including undocumented immigrants, can access nearly all City services. City employees will not ask about immigration status, and if made aware of anyone’s status, are required to keep this information confidential. To make an appointment for free, safe immigration help by trusted providers through ActionNYC call 311 and say “immigration help.” For free legal help with citizenship applications call 311 and say “citizenship appointment” or call the NYCitizenship Hotline at 1-212-514-4277.

DCWP’s case is being handled by Assistant General Counsel Danielle Ilacqua, under the supervision of Associate General Counsel Nicole Arrindell, of the General Counsel Division, which is led by General Counsel Tamala Boyd and Deputy General Counsel Michael Tiger.

The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP)—formerly the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)—protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit us at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Abigail Lootens
Department of Consumer Affairs
(212) 436-0042
press@dca.nyc.gov

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