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Qns scam artist preyed on immigrants: DA

By Rich Bockmann

Authorities arrested a South Richmond Hill woman who allegedly scammed a Trinidadian national out of thousands of dollars in exchange for phony immigration documents, District Attorney Richard Brown said last week.

Prabattie Maraj was apprehended after her alleged victim used his legitimate passport marked with a fake U.S. Department of Homeland Security stamp to apply for a New York state driver’s license, Brown said, and he warned those in Queens’ immigrant communities to be on the lookout for similar scams.

The DA said Kuldip Ramkhellawan, thinking Maraj was an immigration attorney, gave her $2,000 in cash, two passport photos and a Trinidadian passport in August, thinking she would help him get legitimate Social Security and permanent resident cards.

Maraj even went as far as to take Ramkhellawan to 1 Police Plaza and Manhattan’s Federal Plaza for a background check and to fill out immigration forms, Brown said.

Ramkhellawan forked over another $4,000 in September when he got his passport back, marked with what he thought was a Homeland Security stamp and alien number.

In the following weeks Ramkhellawan was sent a Social Security card and a permanent resident card with his name and date of birth on them, Brown said.

When Ramkhellawan went to the DMV in Springfield Gardens, however, employees noticed his credentials were phony — notably, his permanent alien card lacked a security hologram and the Homeland Security stamp on his passport was a fake.

“Protecting consumers is very important to the Department of Motor Vehicles so we were pleased to be able to assist in shutting down this apparently fraudulent operation,” DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala said.

Maraj was arrested and arraigned last Thursday on charges of grand larceny and possession of a forging instrument, Brown said.

“Our immigrant community here in Queens can be especially vulnerable to deception and fraud when someone promises to help them expedite the process of obtaining the necessary documents to become United States citizens,” he said. “In this case, the victim is alleged to have put his faith and his finances in the hands of the defendant who, in turn, allegedly betrayed him by ripping off his hard-earned savings.”

If convicted, Maraj faces up to seven years in jail, the DA said, adding anyone who believes he or she may have been victimized by Maraj to call his office’s Economics Crimes Bureau at 718-286-6673.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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