ethical conduct

Navigating Integrity in Immigration Law: The Case of a Bronx Attorney's Alleged Green Card Fraud

The recent charges against Bronx immigration attorney Kofi Amankwaa and his son, Kofi Amankwaa Jr., serve as a stark reminder of the critical importance of integrity and ethical conduct in the field of immigration law. As alleged by the U.S. Department of Justice and the New York attorney general, the Amankwaas orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to obtain green cards for clients through false claims of domestic abuse, exploiting a provision of the Violence Against Women Act. This case, unfolding in the complex landscape of immigration law, underscores the dire consequences of unethical practices and the need for vigilance and trustworthiness in legal representation.

According to the Jan. 18 federal complaint, Amankwaa, 69, charged mostly Mexican clients $6,000 to file I-360 petitions based on fabricated allegations of child abuse. Many clients were unaware of the false accusations made against their children in these filings. The indictment outlines the harsh outcomes for some clients, including deportation and petition denials due to fraud. These developments highlight the vulnerability of immigrants in legal proceedings and the paramount importance of honest and competent legal guidance.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams from the Southern District of New York condemned the Amankwaas' actions as a mockery of the U.S. immigration system. The father-son duo faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and immigration fraud. This legal action emphasizes the government's commitment to upholding the integrity of the immigration process and the severity of penalties for those who attempt to circumvent it unethically.

The alleged scheme, spanning over seven years, involved Amankwaa using fraudulent petitions to request advance parole for clients, advising them to leave the country with false promises of lawful permanent residency upon return. This strategy, as detailed in the complaint, led to the detention and deportation of some clients, demonstrating the devastating impact of deceptive legal practices on the lives of immigrants seeking a better future in the U.S.

The New York state complaint, filed by Attorney General Leticia James, further illuminates the consequences of the Amankwaas' alleged actions. In one case, a couple was separated and the father deported, following detention upon their return to the U.S. The complaint accuses Amankwaa of never obtaining permission to make abuse allegations, highlighting the breach of trust and ethical misconduct inherent in the scheme.

Additional defendants named in the state complaint include Sylvester Boateng, Nana Adoma Kontoh, and Betty Danquah Smith, who falsely advertised as members of a law firm. Their alleged collaboration with Amankwaa in the fraudulent scheme points to a broader network of deceit impacting unsuspecting clients.

The New York state complaint seeks to halt the alleged scheme and obtain restitution and damages for defrauded clients, as well as civil penalties. This legal action reinforces the necessity for rigorous oversight and accountability in the practice of immigration law.

This case exemplifies the critical role of ethical conduct and professionalism in immigration law. For potential clients seeking immigration services, it serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of choosing a reputable and experienced immigration attorney. An attorney who not only understands the complexities of immigration law but also adheres to the highest ethical standards is essential for navigating the often-challenging path to legal residency or citizenship in the United States.

The cases, U.S. v. Kofi Amankwaa et al. and New York v. Kofi O. Amankwaa et al., are stark reminders of the vital need for integrity in legal practice, especially in areas as sensitive and impactful as immigration law. They underscore the responsibility of attorneys to uphold the law and the trust of their clients, and the grave consequences of failing to do so.

Credits to the original article by Britain Eakin, "Immigration Atty Hit With Charges Over Green Card Scheme", Law360, January 22, 2024.

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