A Bronx man who was convicted of defrauding immigrants in 2016 is now accused of doing it again.
Edwin Rivera was convicted in 2016 for defrauding immigrants out of thousands of dollars. He was sentenced to serve up to six months in jail. The state Attorney General's office says it all started back in 2004; Rivera falsely claimed to be an immigration attorney, charging clients $1,500 dollars. In 2008 he was prohibited from providing immigration services in New York state. He's violated the order multiple times and has served three jail terms
Immigration attorney Anabel Romero says Mr. Rivera is back at it again.
"He's approaching them at churches, houses of worship - where people are vulnerable and people believe what they are telling them," Romero said.
About 40 families have paid Rivera thousands of dollars, Romero said. They would show up at his Zerega Avenue office, which advertises accounting services, a student grant research center and a religious non profit, every Sunday. Rivera told them he was working to get them and their families legal status as religious workers, but those type of exemptions are very limited, according to Romero.
"Usually they're reserved for people of faith," Romero said. "Pastors, priests. Very limited. Very limited to obtain.”
Rivera is not an immigration attorney. When PIX11 spoke to him over the phone, he said he works with immigrants out of the "kindness of his heart."
"I am not defrauding the families. This is a church, a church of the Christian ministry,” Rivera said. "I'm not doing anything illegal."
Jose Villa says he gave Mr. Rivera over $5,000, even though he knew Mr. Rivera wasn't an attorney.
"He knows how to prepare the things for immigration," Villa said he was told. "He knows about how to do the papers."
Rivera said he is working to get the families legal status.
"They gave initially $4,000 for the expenses," he said about what Villa has paid. "When the money ran out, I asked them to bring in an additional $1,000."
Rivera said the immigrants are paying for "The expenses of an office to do the petition, salaries of the employees, to make copies to answer immigration."
The office of State Attorney General Letitia James confirmed they are currently considering legal options regarding the most recent allegations.
“Edwin Rivera is a repeat offender who has cheated, defrauded, and preyed upon vulnerable immigrants looking for legitimate help navigating the legal system. Not only has Rivera cheated countless individuals out of thousands of dollars by pretending to be an immigration attorney, he has also capitalized on the intense fear and anxiety created by the Trump Administration," they said in a statement. "I urge all people, especially immigrants, to remain vigilant against those who try to exploit them and encourage these victims to contact my office to ensure justice is served.”