CONEY ISLAND – Posing as a paralegal, a Coney Island man defrauded immigrants by taking their money and filing fake asylum applications. Now, he’s facing charges.
Vadim Alekseev, 42, of Coney Island, was hit with a 21-count indictment yesterday, facing charges of scheme to defraud, grand larceny and immigrant assistance services fraud, among others. If convicted of the top count, Alekseev could serve up to 4 years in prison.
Between 2014 and 2017, Alekseev filed 35 asylum applications with the Department of Homeland security, which were flagged as fraudulent. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services found the documents “strikingly similar.”
“As the federal government puts in place unprecedented hurdles on immigrants and asylum seekers, it is more important than ever to make sure that con men don’t take advantage of the desperation and fear. This defendant allegedly did just that: he presented bogus credentials and charged vulnerable newcomers thousands of dollars for immigration services he never delivered,” said District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “My Immigrant Affairs Unit will continue to protect all Brooklyn residents, regardless of status, from fraud and abuse, and I urge everyone to be cautious and diligent when seeking immigration assistance.”
Alekseev allegedly targeted immigrants of Eastern European descent, advertising service in Russian newspapers and websites. He presented himself as a licensed and authorized paralegal, though he was anything but.
Running the scam, Alekseev allegedly took between $1,000 and $3,000 from clients in advance to file the fraudulent paperwork. Once the money was collected, Alekseev ignored texts and phone calls from the clients. The investigation found that none of the clients were granted asylum or legal status.
“It is particularly despicable when scammers prey on those in their own community, taking advantage of the trust placed in them to prepare immigration applications and petitions,” said Patricia A. Menges, director at the New YorkUSCIS office. “Today’s indictment is a reminder to those seeking to defraud the government that they will be brought to justice by the local and federal agencies tasked with preserving the integrity of our immigration system.”
Of course, an indictment is just a formal accusation and not an indication of guilt. Vadim Alekseev will return to court in October of this year to face the charges.