Attorney General James Sues Fraudulent Lawyers in the Bronx for Scamming Immigrants

Kofi Amankwaa and His Colleagues Tricked Vulnerable Immigrants Into Paying Thousands For Fraudulent Services That Caused Them to be Deported

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit today against Kofi Amankwaa, a Bronx immigration lawyer, and others in his office, Sylvester Boateng, Nana Adoma Kontoh, Betty Smith, and Kofi Amankwaa, Jr., for running an illegal scheme that scammed hundreds of vulnerable immigrants into paying thousands of dollars for fraudulent services that caused many to be deported or have their green card applications denied. From 2018 through 2023, Amankwaa and the other defendants charged immigrant clients thousands of dollars to submit paperwork on their behalf to secure green cards for their clients. Unbeknownst to their clients, Amankwaa and the other defendants were also illegally submitting separate petitions falsely claiming that their children were abusing them. These petitions were filed under the Violence Against Women Act, which allows victims of abuse by a U.S. born child over 21 years old to seek lawful permanent residency. As a result of their illegal actions, several of their clients were deported while others were denied their green cards. With this lawsuit, Attorney General James is seeking an order to immediately halt Amankwaa and the defendants’ illegal scheme, and force them to pay restitution and damages to the affected customers, in addition to civil penalties to the state. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a parallel criminal action today, charging and arresting Mr. Amankwaa and Kofi Amankwaa, Jr. for carrying out a large-scale immigration fraud scheme. 

“People who immigrate to America are often vulnerable and simply trying to build better lives for themselves and their loved ones,” said Attorney General James. “When these immigrants sought help from attorneys claiming to act in their best interests, they were taken advantage of and harmed instead. This cruel and illegal scheme led to them being separated from their families and deported. I thank Assemblymember Cruz for bringing this issue to light and for her tireless work to protect our most vulnerable communities. I will not tolerate fraudsters who prey on the vulnerable and take advantage of people asking for help.” 

“Hundreds of hardworking undocumented New Yorkers sought help from Attorney Kofi Amankwaa to regularize their status. Mr. Amankwaa charged them thousands of dollars and engaged in unethical and unconscionable conduct that led to the deportation of many of them,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. “These families simply wanted the American Dream and trusted Mr. Amankwaa as their lawyer; instead, he committed the most depraved of violations and his actions led to forced separation from their families. After several of his victims approached our office seeking help, we immediately referred the case to the Attorney General’s office, while we continued to support their families. I am thankful to Attorney General James and her team for holding this immigration scammer accountable. I look forward to justice being served.” 

An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) revealed that Amankwaa and the others working in his office knowingly and repeatedly filed false petitions on behalf of their clients. These petitions identified each client as the parent of an abusive United States citizen, which would allow the client to petition for a green card. However, Amankwaa and the others did not inform their clients that they were doing this and refused to provide them with copies of the filed documents. As a result, clients were unaware that attorneys, were falsely accusing their own children of abuse in their name. Amankwaa also falsely told clients they would be able to safely leave and return to the United States and instructed his clients to lie on their petition submissions and to immigration officials about being abused, though none of them ultimately did. In November 2023, Amankwaa’s law license was suspended after he failed to respond to nine separate complaints alleging he submitted fraudulent immigration filings on behalf of his clients. 

In addition, Kontoh falsely represented that she was an attorney while acting as an immigrant assistance service provider, unlawfully providing legal advice and misleading her immigrant clients. She unlawfully encouraged her clients to lie to immigration officials, failed to provide her clients with written contracts or copies of documents filed with the government, and failed to post signs informing clients that she was not an attorney. The lawsuit also alleges that Amankwaa, Jr. also violated the law by providing legal advice, even though he is not admitted to practice law in New York. 

As a result of Amankwaa and the others’ actions, several of their clients were deported, including Ricardo Velazquez, a father of four from the Bronx who had lived in America for over 20 years. Amankwaa falsely told Velazquez that he needed to leave the U.S. and re-enter to proceed with his application for lawful permanent residence. When he attempted to come back to America after visiting Mexico, he was detained by immigration authorities and ultimately deported. Velazquez’s family only later learned that Amankwaa had filed false petitions stating that Velazquez’s son had abused his parents, which led to his father’s deportation. In another instance, Amankwaa instructed a woman to lie to immigration authorities and claim her daughter was abusing her. When the woman refused to lie in an interview, immigration officials denied her application for lawful permanent residency and began deportation proceedings. 

Other clients paid thousands of dollars for immigration services that were never rendered. In one case, a father of two paid Kontoh over $4,000 for travel documents to allow him to legally visit Honduras and return to America. Instead, Kontoh secretly filed a fraudulent petition stating the father was a victim of his abusive children. 

With this lawsuit, Attorney General James is alleging Amankwaa and the others working in his office exhibited a pattern of repeated and persistent fraudulent and illegal conduct in violation of Executive Law 63(12), New York General Business Law, and Judiciary Law. Attorney General James is seeking an order to prevent Amankwaa and his colleagues from continuing their illegal scheme and make a full accounting of each transaction with their clients in order to pay full restitution and damages to their customers, in addition to paying civil penalties to the state. Attorney General James would like to thank Assemblymember Catalina Cruz for referring this matter to OAG. 

“I want to thank Attorney General Letitia James for taking swift action against these individuals who were defrauding New Yorkers and exploiting vulnerable communities in our borough,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “These clients’ lives and their families were negatively impacted as a result of these bad actors, leading to consequences that call for immediate restitution.” 

“I am very encouraged to hear that Attorney General James took action against Kofi Amankwaa, a serial scam artist and abuser of well-meaning immigrant families,” said Congress Member Ritchie Torres. “For some time, my team has been deeply involved in helping his victims like Ricardo Velázquez who have been deported from the U.S. at no fault of their own. We’ve pushed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to investigate and urged to let them return home with their families. The victims of Amankwaa’s actions are honest and hard-working people who deserve better, and I hope that this case sends a message to immigration lawyers across the nation that if they ever deceive their clients, they will face serious consequences.”

“Mr. Kofi Amankwaa’s case is truly an indictment on our nation’s immigration system,” said Assemblymember Amanda Septimo. “In every corner of New York there are examples of desperate families trying to navigate an incredibly complex system, with no clear paths to resolution. Our broken immigration system creates room for the proliferation of fraudulent actors and leaves a trail of damaged families in its wake. I am grateful for New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fierce leadership with respect to protecting our most vulnerable communities and look forward to Mr. Amankwaa being brought to justice so the impacted families can be made whole.”

“It truly saddens me that families are being misled when looking for assistance with citizenship, especially in the Bronx,” said New York City Council Member Althea Stevens. “This is truly shameful that someone who is meant to help, actively chooses to break up families for their own gain. Thank you to our Attorney General for ensuring justice is being restored for our families, and putting a stop to any continuous acts of illegal malpractice in our communities.” 

Attorney General James is committed to protecting immigrants and all vulnerable New Yorkers. Anyone who believes they may have been the victim of fraud is encouraged to report complaints by filling out a complaint form or calling 1-800-771-7755. Any identifying information provided to the office will be protected according to state law and policies on the safeguarding of identifying information.

This matter was handled by Roberto Lebron, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Harlem Regional Office with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Kurtis Falcone, Investigator Specialist Andres Rodriguez of the Investigations Division, and former OAG fellow Julio Gonzalez. The Harlem Regional Office is a part of the Division for Regional Affairs, which is led by Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Both the Division for Regional Affairs and the Investigations Division are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Miriam Pedraza of South Bronx United, Brendan Davis of NYLAG, Brad Glassman, and Jun Lee, Principal Staff Attorney of the Attorney Grievance Committee of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department also assisted with the investigation.