CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. Oct. 15, 2009: Several Guyanese migrants in New York could now face deportation after falling prey to a Puerto Rican man posing as an immigration attorney.
The Manhattan District Attorney`s Office in New York says Wilmer Rivera Melendez posed as a veteran immigration lawyer, promising to get at least 14 Guyanese nationals in Brooklyn green cards in the U.S. He is accused to taking up to $75,000 from 14 undocumented migrants as an employee of W&R Immigration Services, purportedly a non-profit organization located in Covington, Georgia.
Melendez allegedly took the migrants money and filed false paper work with the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services agency. Based on the fake filings, the migrants now face deportation from the U.S.
Melendez allegedly claimed to be an attorney, with approximately 20 years of experience working for immigration within the federal government. As a part of his representation, he allegedly required his clients to fill out and sign a Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative, which gave him the authority to represent them in court proceedings regarding immigration matters.
He then apparently promised that he could obtain a green card for them within two years by filing for Withholding of Removal, a status which gives a holder permission to remain in the U.S. until further notice. This promise is false because a person granted Withholding of Removal can never obtain a green card, according to immigration laws.
Melendez allegedly explained that USCIS would schedule an interview to question the client about his/her claim. While the petition for Withholding of Removal is pending, he reportedly explained, the clients could receive a work permit after 150 days had passed since the filing of the withholding petition. In order to ensure that the 150 days elapsed, Melendez apparently rescheduled the interview numerous times. However, this rescheduling did not count towards the 150-day calculation because the petitioner, not the federal government, caused the delay. After the individuals failed to attend the interview a few times, their cases were sent to an immigration judge, and deportation hearings were scheduled. When individuals allegedly questioned Melendez about their cases, he refused to take their telephone calls and/or changed his telephone number.
Melendez, 60, has denied the allegations, which add to his rap sheet that includes jail time for bigamy in Georgia; convictions in an office burglary in the U.S. Virgin Islands and breaking out of an Ohio jail through a ceiling hole in 1971.
Melendez is being held on $175,000 bail after pleading not guilty to charges including grand larceny, scheme to defraud and falsely appearing as an attorney. He faces a maximum of four years in jail.