A Haitian-born former United Nations volunteer was convicted Friday of posing as a staffer to bilk thousands of dollars from immigrants in a scam that used the U.N.'s headquarters as a backdrop.
Marc Payen _ who was already on probation after admitting another immigration aid scheme _ falsely claimed to have an immigration service job with the U.N. and had victims meet him in its public lobby, telling them his office was "upstairs," prosecutors said. Then he claimed he could get them legal residency and reeled in fees for work he never did, they said.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement that Payen's conduct "put a unique twist on the most common immigration scam this office sees."
Payen, who as a volunteer was tasked with providing information about housing to U.N. employees, was convicted of grand larceny, scheming to defraud, forgery and other charges. But jurors acquitted him of some other charges, including posing as an attorney.
Payen, 29, could face up to seven years in prison on the top charge in his conviction. His sentencing is set for May 3.
Defense lawyer D. Andrew Marshall said the Haitian-born Payen didn't misrepresent his volunteer work at the U.N. and tried to help fellow Haitian immigrants, but some blamed him when their immigration problems proved impossible to resolve.
"The people he was not able to help accused him of the crimes," said Marshall, adding that Payen plans to appeal. "He is a man of good intentions, and something just went wrong."
Payen initially was charged with taking more than $12,000 from at least six people; eight victims testified against him at his trial, prosecutors said. In many instances, Payen said he could help them take advantage of a special temporary residency granted to some Haitians after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in their homeland, prosecutors said.
When the immigrants eventually demanded receipts, he produced immigration forms with phony signatures and forged letters with the U.N. insignia, prosecutors said. Marshall said Payen isn't a good record-keeper and refunded money to some of the immigrants.
The U.N. ended Payen's volunteer gig and banned him from its buildings, prosecutors said.
Payen also was accused of taking pay for phony promises of help getting green cards and work permits in Queens, one of the city's five boroughs, prosecutors there have said. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to five years of probation, they said.