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Carlos Moreno put the outlaw in out of law. Earlier this month, the 61-year-old immigration lawyer was sentenced to 1-3 years in state prison for scheming to defraud and one year (concurrently) for practicing law with a suspended license, announced Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. 

“These New Yorkers sought legal services from Mr. Moreno in order to apply for permanent residency in the place they already call home,” said Bragg. “Instead, he took their fees and placed them in situations that put them at risk of deportation.”

The swindle started before even Moreno’s law license was suspended in 2017. According to the D.A.’s office, his consultations falsely claimed undocumented immigrants could apply for “legal” residency after staying in the United States for a decade—a grift aptly coined the “10-Year Green Card Scam.” Instead, he submitted a pair of meritless asylum applications, triggering his clients’ removal proceedings after they were decidedly rejected. 

Moreno began practicing in 1992 until he was suspended roughly five years ago for “engaging in conduct immediately threatening the public interest.” Still, he continued to work with an existing client whom he failed to inform of the news. Six months after his suspension, another client hired him, woefully unaware of his suspension. 

His ex-clients recalled in their statements how Moreno would ghost them or offer them the run-around once he received partial payments. Some saw their applications delayed. Others are in limbo. All seemed to be hit hard economically. Brooklyn-based immigration lawyer Brian Figeroux advises those with similar cases to seek a second opinion.

“Get more than one consultation,” he said. “Get two or three consultations, compare what the attorneys say—[just] because an attorney tells you that you can succeed [doesn’t] means that you could succeed.”

He also recommends putting more stock in the bad news—lawyers who offer doubts or low confidence in immigration cases are likely more honest given they’re going against the financial incentives.

Those finding themselves in similar shoes as Moreno’s victims can call D.A. Bragg’s Immigrant Affairs Unit hotline at 212-335-3600. Non-English speaking services are available. 

Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w 

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