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Post date: November 3 2005

Court Order Shuts Down Green Card Scam

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained a restraining order against the perpetrator of a "green card" scam victimizing Irish and British nationals.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Dolan of Dutchess County signed the order banning Christine Owad from providing immigration assistance services to consumers for a fee unless she posts a performance bond and complies with the New York Immigrant Assistance Services law.

"Those who use false promises and deceit to prey upon individuals seeking the American dream face swift and aggressive prosecution by my office," Spitzer said.

Spitzer’s office began investigating reports in October that Owad, based in Windham, targeted persons of Irish and British nationalities in New York City and the Hudson Valley, who were in the U.S. on 90-day visas. As detailed in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Owad falsely claimed that, for a fee ranging between $2,000 and $4,000, she could secure "Alien Registration Receipt Cards," commonly known as green cards, within a year, and work authorization permits within a few months. She also falsely represented that she was a paralegal with vast experience securing changes in immigration status. Further, Owad claimed that she had helped many immigrants get green cards and work authorization permits through loop holes in the immigration laws. She further claimed to have contacts and special influence in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

According to the lawsuit, after collecting fees from her victims, Owad provided them with forms that she falsely represented could be used to secure green cards. Her victims would subsequently receive a letter from USCIS acknowledging receipt of an application and enclosing a notice to come to a USCIS office for "BIOMETRICS" to have their picture taken and to be fingerprinted, leaving them with the impression that their application had been expedited. What they later discovered, however, was that the applications had been rejected.

In filing the lawsuit, Spitzer’s office is seeking a permanent court order banning Owad from any future deceptive business practices and from providing any immigration assistance services unless she posts a $200,000 performance bond. Spitzer’s lawsuit also seeks full monetary restitution for injured victims, civil penalties and court costs. In addition, the lawsuit seeks a court order directing Owad to submit an accounting of each transaction performed to adjust immigration status, and stopping her from destroying or disposing of any records pertaining to her business.

This lawsuit represents the first enforcement action involving the Immigration Assistance Services law, which took effect late last year. The law created regulations and standards that significantly strengthen the rights of consumers who employ immigration assistance providers.

Individuals with complaints or information about Christine Owad are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s office at 845-485-3913.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin, under the supervision of Mary B. Kavaney, Assistant Attorney In Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office.