Two organizations and a businessman accused of defrauding immigrants by falsely promising citizenship, charging exorbitant fees and engaging in unauthorized legal practice have reached a settlement with the state that will shut down the entities and provide $2.2 million in restitution.
The settlement will end a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against the International Immigrants Foundation (IIF) and the International Professional Association (IPA), both of New York City, and their president, Edward Juarez. IPA will shut down immediately and IIF will be phased out over the next two years.
Under the agreement, both organizations, which are not-for-profit corporations, will shut down and any remaining assets will go to victims who were defrauded or overcharged. Victims can apply for relief through the New York Legal Assistance Group (email@example.com or 212-514-4265). A claim form is available online at www.nlyag.org/IPA.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit alleged that IIF and IPA misrepresented their ability and qualifications to provide immigration-related legal services, made false promises guaranteeing legal results and illegally charged excessive fees.
An investigation showed that IIF enticed immigrants to purchase “memberships” that supposedly entitled them to free or low-cost legal services, according to a press release issued by the attorney general’s office.
After paying the $100 registration fee and $30 monthly fee, members were directed to IPA where they paid thousands of dollars to have immigration papers prepared, often by non-attorneys who were not qualified, according to the release.