By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A Bronx man was sentenced on
Wednesday to one year in jail for posing as a divorce attorney
and stealing money from unsuspecting victims, the Manhattan
district attorney's office announced.
Jose Barrera, 47, pleaded guilty in December to both scheme
to defraud and the unauthorized practice of law.
Prosecutors had accused him of preying on immigrants by
running advertisements for his services in publications like El
Diario. When Barrera met with prospective clients, he told them
he could represent them in divorce proceedings and handed out
business cards that said "attorney-at-law," the district
attorney's office said.
Barrera collected $1,600 in fees from three victims,
"Recent immigrants to New York City often arrive with little
more than the cash in their wallets," Manhattan District
Attorney Cyrus Vance s a id in a statement. "Though the amount of
money this defendant stole may seem insignificant to some, it
could have been essential to someone trying to establish a new
life in Manhattan."
Barrera's lawyer, Michael Croce, declined to comment.
Fraudsters who pretend to be attorneys often target
immigrant communities, where there are many potential victims
whose native language is not English a n d who need help
navigating legal documents and government regulations.
A new law that takes effect in November will make
impersonating an attorney a felony, not just a misdemeanor, for
anyone who costs his or her victims more than $1,000.
The case is People v. Barrera, New York State Supreme Court,
New York County, No. 3910/2012.
For the prosecution: Assistant District Attorney Jonathan
For Barrera: Michael Croce.
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