NYLAG Named Administrator of Restitution Fund to Compensate Immigrant Fraud Victims

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The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) announced today it has been selected by the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to administer a $2.2 million fund to provide restitution to former clients of the International Immigrants Foundation (IIF) and the International Professional Association (IPA).

In 2010 the OAG filed suit against IIF and IPA, nonprofit organizations operating in New York City. The OAG alleged the organizations defrauded immigrants with false promises of citizenship and residency, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, illegally charged exorbitant fees for services, and violated laws governing not-for-profit corporations.

State Review Court approved a settlement agreement between the OAG and the defendants; as a result, IIF and IPA closed. The settlement requires that the organizations’ remaining assets, following the sale of its property and the settlement of all claims, be used to provide restitution to former clients of IIF/IPA. As the Claims Administrator, working under the direction of the OAG, NYLAG will implement the claims process, review claims, and propose and facilitate restitution to former clients of IIF/IPA.

“Thousands of immigrants who had their trust abused and their money stolen by these organizations deserve to receive compensation, and now they can,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By making more than two million dollars in restitution available for the victims of these unscrupulous organizations, we are taking an important step toward justice in this case. I urge all eligible individuals to participate in the claims process, without fear of reprisal. Today’s announcement should send the message that my office enforces one set of rules for everyone, and we will continue to fight immigration services fraud whenever and wherever it occurs.”

“Immigration fraud is a stain on the inclusive values that have made New York home to more immigrants than any other city in the nation – individuals and families who have contributed so much to our culture and our prosperity,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG’s President  and Attorney-in-Charge. “NYLAG is proud to be able to continue to play a role in bringing at least a small measure of justice to those who have been harmed – and shining the light on the continuing travesty of immigration fraud.”

NYLAG has deep familiarity with the complexities and challenges posed by the IIF/IPA matter: in June of 2011, at the recommendation of the OAG, NYLAG was appointed as the Receiver of IIF/IPA’s former client case loads. In all, NYLAG reviewed 18,000 client case files, prioritizing those former IIF/IPA clients in need of immediate legal assistance, and providing them with either direct legal services or referrals to other pro bono organizations.

In its role as Receiver, NYLAG also conducted a comprehensive assessment of the financial assets of IIF/IPA, arranged for the sale of property, and settled all claims against the two organizations. The money that remains held in escrow will now be used to establish the Restitution Fund.

The goal of the Claims Process is to locate those who may qualify for restitution. NYLAG will employ a multipronged, multilingual process to notify potential claimants. This will include establishing a dedicated website and telephone hotline, securing news coverage in ethnic media, coordinating with social services organizations with ties to immigrant communities, and sending letters of notification to known clients of IIF/IPA. NYLAG will undertake comprehensive efforts to identify updated information about the whereabouts of claimants.

To be considered for restitution, former clients who paid for or received legal services from IIF and/or IPA must submit a claim form by October 23, 2014. For more information about the Claims Process go to www.nylag.org/Restitution or call the Fund Hotline at 212-514-4265.