FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, April 20, 2018
Gloria Chin / Christine Gianakis
Department of Consumer Affairs
(212) 436-0042 firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Consumer Affairs Settles Charges Against Egregious Immigration Service Provider for Deceptive and Predatory Practices Targeting Immigrant New Yorkers
Buitron Offices Mislead Consumers into Believing they were Attorneys or Authorized to Provide Immigration Legal Services
NEW YORK, NY—Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today, during Immigrant Heritage Week, announced a settlement agreement with Buitron Offices and its president, Angel G. Buitron (collectively “Buitron”), for violations of the City’s Consumer Protection Law and the laws regulating immigration assistance services providers including engaging in deceptive and illegal trade practices to profit from immigrant consumers. DCA’s settlement agreement requires Buitron to pay $150,000 in fines and secures $34,050 in restitution for the consumers identified in this case.
Through the course of our investigation, DCA found that Buitron advertised their immigration assistance services to consumers in New York, and specifically targeted the Ecuadorian immigrant community. Angel G. Buitron – who is not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction or a U.S. Department of Justice Accredited Representative – misrepresented his ability and qualifications to provide legal services to numerous consumers and falsely claimed to be an attorney specializing in immigration law to an undercover DCA inspector.
DCA also found Buitron deceived consumers by including “Jack Sachs – Attorney at Law” on their website, business cards, and other print materials despite having no affiliation with Sachs. These deceptive practices allowed Buitron to charge consumers thousands of dollars for legal advice and services. Buitron also violated the law by collecting fees from consumers without providing a written contract or receipt, failing to include required immigration assistance services notices in their signs and advertisements, and threatening to report immigrant consumers to immigration authorities if they failed to pay.
“It’s unacceptable for immigration service providers like Buitron and immigration lawyers to prey on the desperation and fear of immigrants to turn profits,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “DCA will investigate anyone who engages in these practices and ensure any necessary action is taken. All New Yorkers should take advantage of the City’s many free and secure services – available regardless of immigration status – to ensure they are keeping themselves and their families safe. As an immigrant myself, I am proud to celebrate Immigrant Heritage week and the diversity that helps make our city great– together we are one New York.”
Buitron also advertised a “10-Year Visa” on their website, street signs, and business cards. Last summer, DCA warned
consumers about the “10-Year Visa Scam” or as Buitron’s advertisements deceptively read – the “Residence by a Ten-Year Law.” Preying on fears and desperation to find a legal way to stay in the United States, this scam tells immigrants that they can obtain a visa or green card if they have lived in the U.S. for 10 years. These individuals and businesses fail to disclose that, as part of the process for obtaining a green card or visa based upon residency, the immigrant must first enter deportation proceedings. They also often fail to explain additional requirements for this so-called “10-year visa,” including that the immigrant must prove “extreme, unusual, and exceptional hardship” to their family members.
This scam places immigrant New Yorkers at extraordinary risk while grossly misrepresenting the visa application process. These deceptive tactics also violate the City’s Consumer Protection Law and DCA is proactively investigating anyone who engages in this practice.
Buitron has agreed to:
- Pay a total of $34,050 in restitution for the consumers identified in this case;
- Pay a total of $150,000 in fines;
- Comply with the City’s Consumer Protection Law and all relevant state and federal laws;
- Disclose that they do not have the ability or qualifications to provide legal advice and legal services;
- Remove statements on their website, business cards, and other print materials, and advertisements containing the attorney’s name Jack Sachs; and
- Remove all advertisements that use the term “Residence by a Ten-Year Law” or otherwise make representations to the consumer about obtaining a green card or visa based on the duration of residency in the United States.
“Particularly in this political climate, taking advantage of immigrant New Yorkers in need of legal assistance to pad your own pockets is unconscionable,” said Bitta Mostofi, Acting Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “As we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Week this year, we remind New Yorkers with immigration questions that they can schedule an appointment to speak with a qualified immigration attorney at no cost, in their neighborhood and in the languages they speak, by calling 311 and saying ‘ActionNYC.’ Commissioner Salas and DCA have done critical work to crack down on fraudulent legal providers and my office looks forward to continue our efforts to provide important services to immigrant New Yorkers.”
"Catholic Charities Community Services is proud to partner with the Department of Consumer Affairs to curb the unauthorized practice of law and notarios who cheat vulnerable immigrants out of thousands of dollars and may expose them to immigration enforcement," said Raluca Oncioiu, Director of the New Americans Hotline, managed by Catholic Charities Community Services and funded by the NYS Office for New Americans. "The New Americans Hotline, which can be accessed at 800-566-7636 and is the only statewide immigration hotline in the country, is available to take complaints against unscrupulous practitioners who prey on immigrants and forward these complaints to law enforcement partners for investigation.”
“We are proud to partner with the Department of Consumer Affairs to help keep all New Yorkers safe from predatory and illegal practices,” said Javier Valdés, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York. “At a time when many immigrants may be fearful of the government and are in need of legal guidance, it is more important than ever that we make sure our communities have the right information about their options. As a proud ActionNYC partner and a trusted community service provider, we encourage everyone to access the free, confidential, high-quality immigration legal screenings provided by the city so that they do not fall prey to immigration scams.”
DCA 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 or advertisements promoting the 10-Year Visa Scam, or who have fallen victim to the scam, to file a complaint about “false advertising” at nyc.gov/dca
or call 311. Consumers can also visit our website to access 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.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA 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, DCA 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, DCA 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. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.