Weeklong Event Series Also Includes Public Awareness Campaign, Phone Bank, and Community Forum
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and partners in media, government, and community-based organizations joined together to host a Fraud Prevention Week in order to increase awareness of common scams and frauds committed against immigrants. The weeklong event series was organized in partnership with WXTV Univision 41, El Diario, WADO 1280 AM, and 92.7 AM, and involved an awareness campaign, phone bank, and community forum in Northern Manhattan.
“In just two days, more than 530 people called the Fraud Prevention Week phone bank, demonstrating a real need for opportunities to learn about protecting oneself from fraud and scams,” said District Attorney Vance. “This weeklong event represents a comprehensive effort by my Office and our partners to combat crime in our communities through education, media outreach, and community support. Together, we share a commitment to educating individuals about fraud, providing assistance to crime victims regardless of background, and supporting initiatives aimed at protecting our communities, such as amending current laws to better protect the public. Strong criminal statutes are needed to help law enforcement prosecute predators, provide due justice for victims, and deter cases of fraud and abuse.”
Deputy Secretary of State of New York and the Director of the New York State Office for New Americans Jorge I. Montalvo said: “Opportunity and fairness are among our most cherished values and we must uphold the promise of our State and the rule of law in dealing with those who prey on immigrants. Providing trusted information and educating New Yorkers are the best tools we can utilize to fight fraud in our communities. Working with all partners, we look forward to continuing protecting New York’s consumers well beyond this week.”
Executive Editor of El Diario La Prensa Carmen Villavicencio said: “El Diario is committed to support our community. That’s why we have done our best to let our readers know that there is a lot resources to prevent scams and fraud.”
Senior Vice President and General Manager for Univison Local Media Ramón J. Pineda said: “Information is power which is why we are committed to using our local media platforms to help and empower our community.”
During Fraud Prevention Week, which began May 11th and concluded today, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and partners highlighted various types of scams, including immigration fraud, employment fraud, housing scams, and identity theft.
Fraud Prevention Week also included a two-day phone bank that was staffed by volunteers and representatives from different organizations, including the Immigrant Affairs Units of the Manhattan, Queens, Kings, and Nassau District Attorneys’ Offices, as well as the New York State Consumer Affairs Division, New York State Office for New Americans, and Catholic Charities. During the event, more than 530 people called in to learn more about immigration fraud, housing scams, and identity theft. The phone bank operators fielded questions, complaints, and made referrals to appropriate agencies for assistance. Fraud Prevention Week also included a community forum in Northern Manhattan.
To date, the District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted many cases involving immigration assistance, identity theft, housing scams, and service provider fraud. For example, Enrique Guerrero was indicted earlier this month for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from individuals seeking affordable housing in Washington Heights. Last year, Jorge Molina pleaded guilty to Identity Theft in the First Degree for impersonating and stealing the identity of a registered attorney, as well as stealing thousands of dollars from victims to whom he falsely promised immigration assistance. Similarly, Martin Mannert also pleaded guilty last year to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Prohibited Conduct by an Immigration Assistance Service for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from victims of an immigration scam.
Anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of a scam is encouraged to call the District Attorney’s Immigrant Affairs hotline at 212-335-3600. Regardless of immigration status, the Immigrant Affairs Unit was expressly created to serve crime victims and members of immigrant communities.
Fraud Prevention Week was organized with assistance from the following: Catholic Charities; Catholic Migration Services; Consulates of Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia; Kings County District Attorney’s Office; P.S. 128 Audubon School; Nassau County District Attorney’s Office; New Immigrant Community Empowerment; New York Immigration Coalition; New York State Consumer Affairs Division; New York State Office for New Americans; Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation; Office of the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey; Queens’ County District Attorney’s Office; and United States Citizen and Immigration Services.