MANHATTAN - Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., has announced the indictment of MARC PAYEN, 28, for posing as an immigration lawyer and immigration services provider employed by the United Nations (“UN”), and stealing more than $12,500 from at least six immigrant victims. PAYEN has been charged in a 23-count indictment with Grand Larceny, Forgery, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Scheme to Defraud, and the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
“The defendant is an opportunist who preyed upon vulnerable immigrants, and stepped up his scheme in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Haiti earlier this year,” said District Attorney Vance. “My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of scams, and I encourage anyone who has fallen victim to one to call the Immigrant Affairs Program at 212-335-3600.”
According to documents filed in court, between September 2009 and April 2010 PAYEN told at least six victims that he was either an attorney working for the UN, or a UN employee working within a special department that provided immigration services. In fact, PAYEN is not a lawyer, he is not authorized to provide immigration services by the Board of Immigration Appeals, nor does the UN provide immigration services to the public. In 2006, PAYEN began volunteering at the UN in a position that allowed him to provide information about housing and other related topics to UN employees and affiliates. At no point was PAYEN authorized to represent himself as an employee of the UN, or to provide immigration-related services on behalf of the UN.
The victims were referred to PAYEN through word of mouth, according to documents filed in court. The defendant met with most of the victims in the UN’s public lobby, and claimed his office was “upstairs.” After a major earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, PAYEN contacted most of the victims and offered to file for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) on their behalf. TPS is a federal program that grants temporary immigration status to those who are eligible to live and work in the United States. PAYEN asked the victims to sign forms for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency that adjudicates immigration benefits. PAYEN claimed that he could get the victims green cards (permanent residence cards), work permits, and TPS, and charged the victims fees to file these forms. When victims demanded receipts and proof of PAYEN’s work, he produced USCIS forms with forged signatures and forged letters bearing the UN insignia and did not file any forms with USCIS on behalf of the victims. As soon as the UN became aware of the scam, PAYEN was terminated as a volunteer and banned from entering UN premises. One of the victims also contacted the District Attorney’s Office after seeing a flyer for the DA’s Immigrant Affairs Program, which set the investigation in motion.
According to documents filed in court, each of the victims paid PAYEN between $1,000 and $3,000 for his services. In total, the six victims paid PAYEN more than $12,500. Most of these victims paid in cash.
District Attorney Vance thanked Assistant District Attorney Daysi Mejia, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigrant Affairs Program, and Assistant District Attorney Melissa Pennington, who are handling the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wornom, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau. Supervising Investigator Santiago Batista of the District Attorney’s Investigation Bureau also assisted, under the supervision of Acting Chief Walter Alexander and Deputy Chief Thomas Jackson.
District Attorney Vance thanked the Office of Fraud Detection & National Security, within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, New York District; the Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program, Executive Office for Immigration Review; and the United Nations and the United States Mission to the United Nations for their cooperation and assistance.