Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the guilty plea of JORGE VARGAS, 31, a former paralegal who assisted with immigration cases, for stealing from clients of three law firms that employed him. VARGAS stole more than a dozen clients’ money orders, which were typically intended to pay for fees to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), by forging the documents and inserting his own name in the payee lines. The defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and is expected to be sentenced on March 22, 2018.
“Jorge Vargas abused his position as a paralegal to prey on immigrant New Yorkers who were trying to secure lawful work permits,” said District Attorney Vance. “Thankfully, his scheme was uncovered when these diligent clients asked about the status of their applications, and their attorneys realized Vargas had pocketed the fees. My Office is a safe place to report crime whether you are documented or undocumented under federal law. I urge anyone who believes they may be a victim of this kind of fraud – regardless of their immigration status – to call our Immigrant Affairs Hotline at 212-335-3600.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, between November 23, 2016, and April 24, 2017, VARGAS was employed as a paralegal at a Manhattan law firm where he assisted with Spanish-speaking clients’ immigration cases. Many of these cases involved paying fees to USCIS, primarily to secure work permits. Instead of submitting these payments to USCIS, VARGAS deposited many of the clients’ money orders into his own bank accounts by altering the documents, including by inserting his own name in the payee fields. Over the course of his employment, VARGAS stole a total of $8,755 from at least a dozen clients before the firm discovered the thefts and reported VARGAS to the NYPD.
VARGAS further admitted to stealing money orders from clients of two law firms that previously employed him. He similarly targeted money orders intended to pay for immigration-related fees, stealing approximately $2,400 from four of those firms’ clients.
Assistant District Attorney Marques Brooks handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gloria Garcia, Chief of the Immigrant Affairs Unit and Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Archana Rao, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, as well as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Program Coordinator Adriana Suarez assisted with the investigation.
District Attorney Vance thanked members of the NYPD, particularly Detective Michael Puma of the Midtown South Detective Squad, for their assistance with the investigation.
JORGE VARGAS, D.O.B 11/11/1986
• Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, one count