Eduardo Juarez, a well-known Spanish-language radio and television personality in the New York area, had the trust of many Latinos – so much so that thousands put their hopes, and their money, into his hands.
But Juarez ripped them off, scamming them with false promises to help them obtain legal immigration status, state authorities say.
Now, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, victims of non-profit groups headed by Juarez that purported to help them with immigration cases will be able to file claims to get some aid from a $2.2 million restitution fund, according to the New York Daily News.
The groups that Juarez headed, which no longer are operative, were the International Immigrants Foundation Inc. and the International Professional Association Inc. The restitution fund arose from a settlement with those groups. Authorities shut down the two groups in 2010.
"This was a really serious case of fraud, there were people who paid—one person paid $18,000, who was actually eligible for a green card but because they didn't really provide legal services he missed his opportunity," said Schneiderman, according to NY1.
“I urge all eligible individuals to participate in the claims process, without fear of reprisal,” Schneiderman said.
Juarez was a ubiquitous presence on the issue of immigration, giving advice through shows on television and radio, and a column he wrote for El Diario-La Prensa.
In a statement, Juarez said that licensed attorneys handled client cases. He said he never faced criminal charges and did not have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, according to The Daily News.
New York officials said that many of the roughly 18,000 people who turned to the two organizations paid thousands of dollars each for advice on their immigration cases. The clients usually received very little in return. They rarely got to speak with lawyers and they usually got overcharged, the Daily News said.
Many invariably ended up deported, Schneiderman noted.
While the clients got little from Juarez, Juarez got plenty from them, the Daily News said.
He lived in a high-end Manhattan apartment, drove a luxury car and ran up huge bills at restaurants, clubs and hotels.
One of his victims, Albert Fernandez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, spoke of how he had been fooled by Juarez. Fernandez paid the required $100 membership fee, and $15 each month for the group’s services. But then bills came for thousands of dollars for various services.
“When I first heard him on his Saturday morning show, I thought Juarez was a serious man who could help me,” Fernandez said. “How wrong I was.”
“They assured me they could get me legal papers,” Fernandez said. “But then they told me my application was filed late and I would have to refile. And they wanted more money for that.”
He ended up losing about $10,000, and didn’t get a green card.
The Daily News says that people who paid for services from either of the groups Juarez headed should submit a claim form by Oct. 13. Forms are available at www.nylag.org/IPA, or by calling the fund hotline at (212) 514-4265. The amount of each payment will be determined after receipt and review of all claims forms.