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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
January 16, 2013

DA VANCE: PHONY DIVORCE LAWYER WHO PREYED ON IMMIGRANTS SENTENCED TO ONE YEAR IN JAIL

Jose Barrera Placed Ads in Local Newspapers Advertising His Phony Services

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of JOSE BARRERA, 47, to one year in jail for falsely claiming to be an attorney and scheming to take money from women seeking divorces. On December 4, 2012, BARRERA pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Unauthorized Practice of Law.

“Recent immigrants to New York City often arrive with little more than the cash in their wallets,” said District Attorney Vance. “Though the amount of money this defendant stole may seem insignificant to some, it could have been essential to someone trying to establish a new life in Manhattan. I urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of a phony attorney to call our Immigrant Affairs Hotline at 212-335-3600, regardless of their immigration status.”

As detailed in the defendant’s guilty plea and court records, between February and August of 2011, BARRERA defrauded three women by advertising his services in publications such as am New York and El Diario. The advertisements in these newspapers identified the defendant as “Dr. Jose Barrera, Ph.D, F.A.C.M.T,” and offered “fast, economical, and professional services.” When BARRERA met with the victims who responded to his ads in Manhattan, he claimed to be an attorney and gave them business cards that stated he was an “attorney-at-law.” In all, the three victims paid approximately $1,600 to the defendant, believing that he was a legitimate attorney who could help them obtain divorces. 

After meeting with each victim individually, BARRERA mailed them documents entitled “Action for Divorce,” and asked that they sign, date, and notarize the forms before mailing them back. Two of the women became suspicious when they did not receive divorce decrees, and BARRERA failed to return their phone calls. The third woman suspected BARRERA’s scheme when the defendant refused to meet with her to discuss mistakes she discovered on the divorce documents. After two of the victims went to their respective county clerks and found that there were no pending actions for divorce listed under their names, they reported BARRERA and his scheme to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. 

Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Gross of the Special Prosecutions Bureau handled the prosecution of this case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wornom, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau, and Assistant District Attorneys Mayerling Rivera and Rosemary Yu, Co-Directors of the Immigrant Affairs Program. 

Defendant Information: 

JOSE BARRERA, D.O.B. 9/21/65 
Bronx, NY 

Convicted: 

  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count 
  • Practicing or Appearing as Attorney-at-Law without Being Admitted and Registered, commonly known as “Unauthorized Practice of Law,” a class A misdemeanor, 1 count 

Sentenced:

  • One year in jail