A Bronx man who prosecutors allege posed as a Hempstead attorney and stole more than $30,000 from immigrants is now facing up to 7 years in prison following his arrest Wednesday.
Efrain Vargas, 62, promised to help three women get immigration and residency papers but instead took their money and gave them no help, according to the Nassau district attorney’s office.
Nassau prosecutors said one of the victims alerted them to the alleged scam, which happened between March and May, by contacting the district attorney’s office of immigrant affairs in August.
They said that kicked off a probe that uncovered two more victims and revealed that Vargas isn’t an attorney.
Authorities have charged Vargas with multiple felonies, including three counts of grand larceny and immigrant assistance service fraud, along with a scheme to defraud charge. He also faces three misdemeanor charges of practicing or appearing as an attorney without being admitted and registered as one.
District Court Judge Tricia Ferrell conditionally released Vargas to probation after his Hempstead court arraignment Wednesday, court records show.
Vargas’ attorney, Christopher Bechtle, said Thursday that his client had entered a not guilty plea after surrendering to prosecutors.
“He’s a 62-year-old guy who’s never been in any trouble,” the Garden City defense lawyer said. “We’re looking forward to our day in court.”
Prosecutors are encouraging any other potential victims of immigrant attorney scams to call their office’s tip line at 516-571-7755.