Organization accused of defrauding immigrants

April 14, 2010 4:28:47 PM PDT
The victims thought a 100 dollar annual fee opened to the door to free and low cost legal representation, but the Attorney General's office say they were charged several thousand dollars more to have immigration papers prepared and filed.

They say it never happened.

Pablo and Maria say all they got were promises. They gave us their story in exchange we promised to hide their identities. The Columbian couple said they gave American Immigrants Federation more than three thousand dollars over two years.

They finally turned to the authorities.

"When we started looking at this organization, immigrants started coming forward. They became a little bit more comfortable with reporting fraud. When we had sufficient evidence, we went after this organization and we shut them down," Alphonso David, bureau chief for civil rights in the Attorney General's office, said.

The Attorney General's office says AIF and its president, Stella Figueredo, must immediately stop all immigration services, shut down all of their operations and pay 1.2 million dollars in restitution for victims of the fraud.

The New York-based, not-for-profit organization has more than twenty-thousand clients. Customers like Miguel from Mexico, who handed over 5-thousand dollars for the past five years. He eventually turned to the Attorney General's office, which confirmed he was duped.

This is part of an aggressive crackdown by the Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Last January, the office busted Edward Juarez. That lawsuit says Mr. Juarez promised green cards, visas and citizenship through his "nonprofit" organization called the international immigrants foundation.

The hope is that in the pursuit of the American dream, immigrants won't become victims.

"Immigrants are fearful of coming forward. They're fearful of contacting local law enforcement, and so this organization defrauded them for years," David said.

No jail time for the president, but the Attorney General's office said she must pay up to get that money back in the victims' hands.

If you believe you are a victim of immigration assistance fraud, please visit or call 866.390.2992.