A.G. Schneiderman Secures Guilty Plea From Former Cop For Preying On Immigrants In Cash-For-Licenses Scam
Serving As Police Liaison To Latino Community, Former NYPD And Wappingers Falls Police Officer Conned Immigrants Into Giving Cash For Drivers’ Licenses And Immigration Assistance
Former Officer Expected To Face One Year In Prison
Schneiderman: Targeting Hopes And Dreams Of Immigrants Is Especially Despicable
POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea of Miguel A. Rodriguez, 53, of Dutchess County, on charges that he conned immigrants seeking driver’s licenses and immigration assistance out of thousands of dollars. Rodriguez, a former member of the NYPD, carried out the scheme while serving as a police officer and a liaison to the Latino community in the Village of Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Rodriguez is expected to be sentenced to one year imprisonment. Judge Greller will also enter an order of restitution in the amount of $13,862.
“Abusing the public trust to prey on the hopes and dreams of hardworking immigrants is despicable. A crime like this undermines cooperation between law enforcement and the community, and erodes the public’s faith in government,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s a fundamental responsibility of my office to bring to justice those who engage in public corruption or defraud vulnerable New Yorkers, and we will continue to root out these crimes wherever they occur.”
Commissioner Carl Calabrese, Village of Wappingers Falls Police Department, said, “This Department and each of our officers and personnel is committed to serve and protect the public to the highest standard and we are pleased that Mr. Rodriguez is been held accountable for his unlawful actions. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners in law enforcement for making sure that those who abuse their power to commit fraud will go to jail.”
Rodriguez pled guilty in Dutchess County Court before Judge Stephen Greller to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony. Rodriguez admitted that, between October 2010 and August 2012, he charged immigrants $300 each to enter a state lottery he falsely claimed could garner them valid NYS driver's licenses. Rodriguez admitted to charging victims $500 to $1,000 for "Asylum and Withholding of Removal" applications, falsely promising that the applications would be reviewed by an attorney and filed with the appropriate immigration authorities—without even determining whether the victims could be eligible for the immigration benefits at all. In all, Rodriguez admitted to defrauding victims out of more than $13,000.
As part of his fraudulent scheme Rodriguez visited religious congregations and preyed upon unsuspecting churchgoers portraying himself as a compassionate individual with official connections to help them get drivers licenses and other services. In reality, he had no such authority to provide the documents or services he purported to offer and instead he stole their money.
Rev. Alvin Bridgewater, of Poughkeepsie Vassar Road Church of the Nazarene, said, “These hardworking immigrants put their faith in Mr. Rodriguez and paid for what they were told was an honest and legal service only to find out that he was taking them for a ride. I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for sending a clear message that abusing unsuspecting and vulnerable communities will not be tolerated”
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Wappingers Falls Police Department and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles for their assistance in this investigation.The prosecution proceeds from a referral from the New York State Police.
“Miguel Rodriguez was entrusted to serve the community but instead he robbed thousands of dollars from the very people he was sworn to protect. He preyed upon the necessity and hope of individuals seeking immigration assistance and legitimate government documents,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “HSI and its law enforcement partners work to dismantle fraud schemes that undermine the integrity of official state and U.S. government documentation.”
Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Wanda Perez-Maldonado, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. Assistant Attorney General Jihee Suh also assisted with the prosecution. Investigators Angel LaPorte, Sixto Santiago, Andres Rodriguez, Gerard Matheson, Louis Carter and Aaron Sherer, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Michael Ward, Deputy Chief John McManus, and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General's Investigations Bureau, participated in the investigation.
Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption matter is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 996-4630.