He worked as a paralegal at a law firm that focused on immigration law in Nassau County. But he told immigrants seeking legal expertise that he was instead an immigration attorney who could provide the kind of legal advice they needed.
According to officials, Edier Alberto Alvarez, of Queens, stole $74,000 from more than 40 victims who sought that legal advice.
Alvarez had pled guilty in November to fourth-degree grand larceny. On Thursday, he was sentenced to 364 days in jail.
The plea and sentence were the result of a joint effort between the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Unit at the New York Asylum Office, and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.
“This defendant posed as an immigration attorney and stole tens of thousands of dollars from dozens of victims who believed they were his clients, exploiting them as they attempted to navigate the legal system with sensitive immigration matters,” Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement.
According to the investigation, between 2017 and 2019, while Alvarez was working as a paralegal in a Nassau County law office that focused on immigration law, the defendant misappropriated payments from his employer and employer’s clients who were seeking assistance with their immigration cases and misrepresented himself as an attorney to prospective clients of the firm, accepting money directly from them to assist with their cases. In both instances, the individuals seeking help paid money and did not receive any services.
During the course of the investigation, the NCDA learned that the Queens County District Attorney’s Office had also received complaints from seven additional individuals in 2020 alleging that Alvarez had been passing himself off as an immigration attorney or immigration specialist, accepting money to provide assistance to “clients,” and failing to do so.
“This defendant preyed on vulnerable immigrants seeking citizenship in the United States. The victims were duped by this charlatan who took their money and dashed their hopes,” Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement.
The Nassau DA’s office encourages anyone who believes they may have been victimized to contact the NCDA Office of Immigrant Affairs at (516) 571-7756.