Howard Seidler took advantage of people at their most vulnerable. Passing himself off as an immigration attorney, he bilked innocent people out of thousands of dollars.
Wednesday Seidler, 70 was sentenced to two to four years in a state penitentiary after admitting that he posed as a lawyer and received money from immigrants in exchange for help staying in the U. S.
Seidler was charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree immigrant assistance services fraud. The last felony count went into effect in February 2015.
Seidler’s conviction marks a relevant win for New York State’s battle against immigration fraud as he’s the first person found guilty of immigrant-services fraud under the 2014 Immigrant Assistance Service Enforcement Act.
In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said, “Howard Seidler is going to an upstate prison because he preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of our society – undocumented immigrants looking for legal help. He falsely claimed to be a lawyer and collected money without doing a thing. We’re determined to protect the people of Brooklyn from all types of con artists, including fake lawyers, and encourage every victim to report scams and other crimes, regardless of immigration status.”
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Between November 2014 and May 2015 the defendant posted advertisements in Sunset Park identifying himself as an attorney who provided immigration services. The ads and his business card included the titles “Esq.,” Ph.D” and “J.D.”
A detective investigator from the district attorney’s office, working undercover, met with Seidler in the library of the Brooklyn Bar Association in downtown Brooklyn, which victims said Seidler claimed to be his office.
On April 8, 2015, the detective paid Seidler $3,085 to act as his attorney and help him obtain a green card and a Social Security card. The undercover was then provided with a written retainer contract.
Two weeks later, the undercover had another meeting with Seidler, who gave him a Social Security card and immigration paperwork supposedly filed on his behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. The investigation found that the Social Security card had been forged, that the number did not belong to the name used by the detective and that no application had been filed with U.S. immigration authorities.
Seidler was discovered to be neither licensed nor registered to practice law in New York, nor was he licensed or accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
“We will aggressively investigate and prosecute any and all con artists, especially fake lawyers, who prey on undocumented immigrants and steal their hard-earned money,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson told the New York Daily News.