By Alexander Dworkowitz
With little fanfare, a Flushing businessman was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation after admitting he ripped off three immigrants by promising them green cards.
None of Peter Cheung's three victims came to the Kew Gardens courtroom on June 4, nor did any of Cheung's friends, business associates or family.
Instead, Cheung, who speaks little English, stood by a court-appointed translator and his attorney, who admitted he knew little about his client. Cheung only said “yes” to questions asked by State Supreme Court Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt.
“Stay out of trouble,” Brandt told him before moving on to the next case.
Cheung, 49, of Great Neck, was arrested in a March raid of his business, American Immigration Consultant Inc., at 36-09 Main St.
Cheung's arrest came after stories of immigrants being scammed by immigration consultants made headlines, particularly in the Chinese press.
While some authorities believe such scams to be widespread in the borough's Chinese community, Cheung so far is the only person to be charged
The management of two similar agencies on Main Street closed their businesses and left town before Cheung's arrest.
According to the Queens district attorney, in November 2000 Cheung told Angie Ng, a Chinese immigrant, that he would help her obtain a green card for $35,000 by using a connection he had with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Ng never got her green card, threatening to go to the police if she did not get her money back, the district attorney said. Cheung returned $10,000 and several checks, but the checks bounced, the district attorney said.
Ng has since moved from Flushing to South Carolina. She said Cheung was very friendly with her at first because they both were from Hong Kong.
“We were really like sister and brother,” Ng said last month when she learned Cheung had made a plea deal. “I know he used that to lie to me.”
At Cheung's sentencing, Kevin Tung, his attorney, said the case belonged in civil, not criminal, court.
“I feel a little disappointed,” Tung said. “He should have fought a little longer.”
Tung said his client had intended to secure the green card and should not have been blamed when the INS failed to come through.
“He was just doing what everybody else does, helping people fill out forms,” he said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.