A Ronkonkoma woman is charged with a crime after Nassau prosecutors said she posed as an immigration attorney and stole more than $ 30,000 from illegally resident immigrants seeking legal counsel.
Court records show that Tania Gonzalez, 44, faces multiple aggrieved theft and attempted fraud charges, and was charged on June 8. Her attorney Kristin Galison confirmed on Monday that Gonzalez pleaded not guilty. She declined to comment on the case.
Acting District Attorney for Nassau, Joyce Smith, said in a statement Monday that Gonzalez “allegedly deceived hard-working immigrants by promising to help them on their way to US residency.”
Smith’s office said Gonzalez also used the names Tania Ayala and Tania Gonzalez Renderos and could spend a maximum of 3½ to 7 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors said the fraud took place between January 2016 and January 2020, when Gonzalez told victims that if they had been in the United States for a decade, they would have qualified for a 10-year visa – even if they did entered the country illegally. But the authorities said there was no such visa.
According to the public prosecutor’s office, the defendant demanded “a substantial down payment” from the victims. They said Gonzalez then filed fraudulent asylum applications with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on behalf of the victims without their knowledge, in many cases.
USCIS then made work permit documents available to victims until the agency processed the original asylum applications. Gonzalez allegedly used these documents to show victims that, according to prosecutors, she was working to get the visas she promised.
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However, government officials said that after the asylum applications were processed, they learned that the applications had been made without the victims’ knowledge. Smith’s office said prosecutors were conducting a joint investigation with USCIS ‘fraud detection and national security directorate.
Law enforcement officials said they suspect Gonzalez may have cheated on even more people and are asking anyone who may have been a victim to call the immigration prosecutor at 516-571-7756.
Bridget Murphy is a reporter for the Criminal Justice Department on Newsday.