NEW YORK — A Manhattan man was sentenced Tuesday after being found guilty of impersonating a federal immigration officer from the Department of Homeland Security in order to defraud his victims. The initial arrest stemmed from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Northeast and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York with the assistance of the Village of Monroe, New York, Police Department.
Juan Anthony Nieves, 49, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for impersonating a federal immigration official to deceive victims in New York and Connecticut. In addition to the prison sentence, he was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $15,080 in ill-gotten gains and to pay $15,080 in restitution.
According to the complaint and information filed in U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) White Plains office, as well as statements made in connection with the plea and sentencing proceedings, Nieves is not and never has been, employed by the Department of Homeland Security. But in March 2015, and from November to December 2015, in Orange County, New York and Hartford County, Connecticut, Nieves posed as a federal immigration officer capable of providing assistance in the immigration matters of certain victims and their family members.
“This case identified an illegal scheme to extort victims—impersonating a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official undermines the confidence people have in their government and in law enforcement,” said Keith Barwick, special agent in charge for OPR Northeast. “We are committed to aggressively pursue impersonation cases. Having people come forward to report such schemes is crucial to deterring this type of fraud and preventing others from becoming victims.”
“Juan Nieves exploited vulnerable immigrants working toward U.S. citizenship by posing as a federal immigration officer, charging his victims fraudulent fees while providing no assistance,” said Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. Attorney for SDNY. “Nieves not only defrauded his victims of money but also undermined their trust in the immigration system. Today’s significant sentence is a clear message that this outrageous behavior will not be tolerated.”
Nieves claimed that he was a “boss” or “chief” (“jefe” in Spanish) with United States Immigration, he worked at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan and had numerous employees working for him and he signed the final paperwork that permits an individual to enter the United States or orders an individual to be deported. He offered to help the victims and their family members with their immigration paperwork and in return demanded and received thousands of dollars in so-called fees. In connection with this purported help, Nieves received from the victims and their family members legitimate immigration paperwork that they had completed, and took photos and made copies of their identification documents. He also engaged in a charade of purporting to contact, in the victims’ presence, one or more individuals who worked for him at U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to do certain work related to the victims’ applications.
This case is being handled by the SDNY Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorney Won S. Shin is in charge of the prosecution. SDNY was assisted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.