ELIZABETH — A Union County Grand Jury recently handed up a second indictment against a former Salvation Army pastor, according to Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. The man’s wife and a man who claimed to be an immigration attorney and that man’s secretary were also indicted.
Former Pastor Enoc “Tito” Sotelo, 50, faces 18 new counts of third degree theft by deception, said Romankow. This stems from an earlier investigation where he was charged with 14 counts of theft by deception.
Sotelo was first arrested in January 2010 following an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecution Unit and the Plainfield Police Department. He later posted $20,000 bail.
Sotelo worked for the Salvation Army in Plainfield.
Following that first arrest, additional victims came forward leading to the second indictment, said Romakow.
Sotelo and his wife, Vereli Sotelo, 36, who live in North Carolina surrendered to Union County authorities on Friday afternoon. Vereli Sotelo is charged with eight counts of third degree theft by deception.
Bail was set at $50,000 for Sotelo and $20,000 for his wife, according to authortities.
According to the investigation, Sotelo is accused of promising immigrants that he would help them obtain green cards through a “Florida attorney” and collecting thousands of dollars from them purportedly to pay for travel to and from Florida and obtain the documents, said Romankow.
None of the victims, however, received their green cards, because none of them were actually qualified for National Interest Waivers, said Romankow.
Sotelo, who told each of the victims that he was working with an attorney named Oscar Ruiz, collected roughly $4,000 from each according to authorities. An investigation revealed that Sotelo told the victims that $500 from each payment would go to the Salvation Army, something disputed by the organization, said Romankow.
The investigation also revealed that Ruiz was never an attorney and had been under a cease and desist order from the Florida Bar Association since 1999 barring him from performing any immigration related work for anyone, according to authorities.
Ruiz is currently incarcerated in Florida on an unrelated charge. He was indicted by the Union County Grand Jury on five counts of third degree theft by deception. His secretary, Dennice Gallo, is believed to have fled the country to her native Colombia, authorities said. She is charged with nine counts of third degree theft by deception.
The alleged fraud was first uncovered when a number of victims complained to local Hispanic community activists, who reported the fraud to police. Sotelo collected the money between December 2004 and February 2006, authorities said. The Plainfield Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation in April 2006, said Romankow.
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