A woman who operated out of a storefront in Oxford Circle has admitted to scamming immigrants and deceiving federal authorities.
Ana Molina, 56, who lives in New Jersey, pleaded guilty Jan. 21 in federal court to seven counts of mail fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. She owned Ana Molina & Associates, also known as Molina Multilegal Services, at 6056 Castor Ave.
Prosecutors say Molina posed as an attorney, and sometimes as a paralegal, who could help people attempting to become permanent residents through the immigration process.
Immigrants would ask her to help them find a sponsor for their applications, and Molina on several occasions used the identities of former clients without their knowledge, according to court documents.
Investigators documented seven such instances from 2015 to 2018. In one, Molina was hired to help a mother and her two children obtain permanent resident status.
Three of the identity theft victims had their information used multiple times in separate immigration applications.
“This defendant took advantage of people trying to do the right thing and seek lawful status in this country,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams in a statement. “Her clients were from foreign countries, were unfamiliar with our laws and regulations, and trusted Molina to help them, rendering them vulnerable targets for her scam.”
Molina charged $1,500 to file an application for permanent residency and an additional $500 to provide a sponsor, who agrees to support the immigrant should they need financial help, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Her plea agreement includes an $11,000 restitution payment to her victims, and she may be on the hook for further fines and penalties. The agreement did not stipulate a sentence, though the charges carry a mandatory two-year prison term.
Caroline Cinquanto, Molina’s attorney, said her client has served the city’s immigrant community for many years with “compassion, dedication and zeal.”
“However, at times in the process she took certain actions that were not appropriate,” Cinquanto said in an email. “She took responsibility for those actions. This avoided a trial or the need for anyone to testify.”
She said Molina intends to make her victims “whole” and added that they hope her sentence will be “tempered with mercy.”
Molina is scheduled to be sentenced April 30. ••