New Life, New Problems


A person lacking legal status is vulnerable to a wide range of abusive behavior, including fraud. Imagine making the discovery that a person, whom you’d believed to be a police officer offering assistance with your green card, is actually a con artist? A press release by the King’s County District Attorney’s office details a Brooklyn-based crime ring that coerced immigrants into forking over more than $8,000, by misrepresenting themselves and offering fraudulent assistance with government documents related to the immigrants’ legal status. (Maybe no one told them that the Big Apple could have some big worms.)

Throughout the summer of 2015, the three defendants worked as a group to defraud some of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable—and hidden—residents. According to authorities, a scammer impersonating a Sergeant with the New York Police Department would establish repertoire with immigrants, by pretending to solicit donations to the Police Department. (That takes some moxie.) Together with a cohort, he would then coerce them into giving him cash to help with documentation surrounding their legal status. Court documents detail how one of the scammers went as far as to threaten one immigrant with deportation if she did not hand over $6,000 that they had falsely claimed was necessary to address an issue with her husband’s documents. (No wonder a couple of the defendants later skipped town—who would want to get busted by a New York City police officer for impersonating a New York City police officer?)

As New York City is one of the world’s most diverse cities, the District Attorney’s office runs an Immigration Fraud Unit, which brought this case before a judge after an investigation by the City Police Department. All three defendants pleaded guilty to related charges after two of them were extradited from Pennsylvania: one defendant was sentenced to one to three years in prison for third-degree grand larceny; another was sentenced to conditional discharge for first-degree attempted criminal impersonation; the third was also sentenced to conditional discharge for charges of second-degree criminal impersonation. (Now make sure the phony police uniform stays in the evidence locker.)

Immigrants who have been criminally victimized don’t always see or understand the avenue for legal recourse, and thus are far less likely to report a crime. This creates opportunities for ”real” citizens to exploit immigrants’ hopes, dreams and fears. Congratulations to authorities for bringing such scammers to justice.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”Three Sentenced For Targeting Immigrants in Green Card Scam,” a press release published by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office on March 30, 2016.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that three defendants have been sentenced in connection with a scheme in which they stole more than $8,000 from two victims by falsely promising to help them obtain green cards and other government documents. Two of the defendants were arrested in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and extradited to Brooklyn in November 2015. The defendants, Richard Gomez, 44, and Marisol Mercado, 43, were apprehended in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on October 23, 2015 and returned to Brooklyn on November 9, 2015.

Defendant Gomez was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of one to three years imprisonment following his guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of third-degree grand larceny. Defendant Mercado was sentenced to a conditional discharge following her guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of first-degree attempted criminal impersonation. A third defendant, Francisco Mercado, was also sentenced to conditional discharge following his guilty plea on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 to charges of second-degree criminal impersonation.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.