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Queens pastor admits to targeting immigrants in scam

A self-styled pastor of a Queens church pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges he bilked more than 100 immigrants living on Long Island and in the city out of more than $50,000 in a visa scam, officials said.

The immigrants victimized where mostly from Ecuador and lived in Patchogue, Bay Shore, Elmhurst and Corona, according to investigators with the Queens district attorney's office.

According to District Attorney Richard Brown, Gregorio Gonzalez, 57, of Mamaroneck, schemed with two other defendants to falsely promise they could help solve visa and residency permit problems. Gonzalez worked the scheme from April to October 2008 out of the Iglesia Pentecostal Roca de Salvacion Eterna church in Corona, as well as out of the Queens apartment of his sister, Maria Gonzalez, Brown said.

During the investigation, detectives recovered $75,000 in cash that may be used to provide compensation to the victims, a spokeswoman for Brown said.

Gonzalez faces up to six years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 26, said Brown, adding that the defendant will also face deportation. Maria Gonzalez, 53, of Corona, pleaded guilty to grand larceny last September and was sentenced to five years probation, officials said. Another defendant received a two- to six-year sentence, according to Brown.

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