A.G. Schneiderman Busts Phony Manhattan Employment Agency Operators For Scamming Job-Seekeres
Two Charged With Defrauding Dozens Of Unsuspecting And Unemployed Consumers; Stealing Their Money
Schneiderman: These Defendants Will Be Held Accountable For Taking Advantage Of New Yorkers Down On Their Luck
NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced criminal charges lodged against Elena Shchukina and Ronald Ulysse for allegedly conning unsuspecting and unemployed New Yorkers by operating a phony employment agency in Manhattan and stealing hundreds of dollars in fees from dozens of victims. By advertising non-existent jobs to the public, the defendants, who each face felony fraud and petit larceny charges, conned honest job-seeking New Yorkers into paying for fraudulent job placement services. They each face up to 4 years behind bars.
The two were arrested and arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday.
“These imposters conned dozens of victims by offering them hope that they were on their way to securing a steady job. But rather than helping them find employment, the defendants simply stole their money,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “By repeatedly making false representations and demanding fees for non-existent jobs and non-existent services, these individuals scammed the unemployed and those looking for better jobs and eroded confidence in lawful organizations dedicated to helping people secure their futures. My office is committed to bringing the perpetrators of such schemes to justice.”
According to the complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court today, operating under various business names -- including “Job Force One” and “United Care Service” -- the defendants promised applicants immediate job opportunities, attractive wages and benefits for maintenance and cleaning jobs. Thecourt papers charge that unsuspecting job-seekers were required to pay hundreds of dollars in phony application fees before they were sent to fictitious employers, false addresses or actual employers that had no association with the defendants. The papers allege that when job-seekers returned to demand their money back, the defendants promised refunds but never paid them and later vacated the location.
The Attorney General's felony complaint charges each defendant with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a Class "E" felony) and five counts of Petit Larceny (a Class "A" misdemeanor). The scheme involved dozens of job applicants who were solicited and who paid hundreds of dollars in fraudulent application fees between about December 2011 and October 2012.
According to statements made by prosecutors at arraignment, the Attorney General's investigation found that the defendants operated from multiple locations in New York City, including 688 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. When their scheme was exposed at one location, the defendants simply closed their doors and re-opened at a new location. The investigation continues.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Department of State (NYS DOS) and, in particular its Division of Consumer Protection, for referring the case and for their valuable assistance.
New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said, “We applaud the New York State Attorney General’s office for taking on this case on behalf of vulnerable New Yorkers. The Division of Consumer Protection will continue working closely with the AG’s Office and other law-enforcement agencies to expose these bad actors and help eradicate fraud and abuse in our State.”
The defendants, Elena Shchukina, 22, of New York, N.J., and Ronald Ulysse, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If you feel you have been a victim of this type of crime or if you have additional information regarding this matter, please contact the Attorney General’s office at (212) 416-6521.
The Attorney General's Consumer Frauds Bureau issued the following advice to New Yorkers seeking employment:
- Consumers seeking to use an employment agency should not deal with any agency that poses as an employer.
- Consumers should read the contract with the employment agency carefully.
- Before signing any contract, check to see if the agency is licensed by the Commissioner of Labor or, if the employment agency is located in New York City, by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
- Employment agencies are required by law to prominently display their license.
- The law limits the fees that an employment agency may legally charge consumers and consumers cannot be charged until after they are placed in a job.
- Consumers should also keep in mind that low-cost or free employment assistance may be available.
The case is being investigated by Investigator Sylvia Rivera, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Michael Ward, Deputy Chief of Investigations John McManus and Investigations chief Chief Dominick Zarrella. Other investigative work was done by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Lee of the Consumer Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane Azia and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla Sanchez. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Gabriel Tapalaga with the aid of Legal Analyst Mikael Awake of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.