NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office on Thursday announced the arrest of Sonia Vertucci, 42, of New Rochelle, N.Y., for falsely promising a range of services to predominately immigrant clients and collecting more than $38,000 in cash payments.

Vertucci, according to an investigation, operated an elaborate scheme in 2012 and 2013 to defraud New Yorkers, allegedly promising a variety of services she could not and did not deliver. Most of the victims are from Queens, N.Y.

She promised immigrants Social Security cards and help obtaining legal resident status. She promised truck drivers she would clear up tickets and license suspensions to get them back to work. In each case she demanded money first, usually in cash. She then did nothing. She also declined to refund any money. 

The investigation revealed she rented retail storefronts on busy avenues, with awnings and signs advertising "Express DMV Services," "Mailbox Rentals," "Auto Insurance," "Immigration" and other services. ??The stores had plausible sounding names such as "Multi-Service Center" and "Tristate Business Center" and were populated with administrative staff. Customers were falsely told that Vertucci had lawyers on call to assist her and were given official-looking receipts for payment.

In reality, Vertucci had no businesses on file with the state of New York. She obtained leases for her commercial spaces by passing bad checks, and vacated – with victims’ money – just before being evicted. She then set up a new store and defrauded new victims.

The indictment, filed in Supreme Court in Queens County, charges Vertucci with two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class "E" felony), three counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class "D" felony), two counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class "E" felony) and four counts of Petit Larceny (a misdemeanor). If convicted, Vertucci faces up to 7 years or more in prison.

"Scam artists who prey on immigrants, or other hardworking New Yorkers, with false promises will not be tolerated in our state," Schneiderman said. "No matter how elaborate their schemes, those who defraud New Yorkers will face justice."

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