- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - An Austrian-born man accused of using phony government documents to scam people seeking immigration help has pleaded guilty in New York to scheming to defraud.

Martin Mannert agreed Thursday to pay $180,000 in restitution. His case may be closed without jail time or probation if he repays the money by May 22.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Mannert held himself out as a legal adviser and immigration consultant, drawing clients from Europe, Asia and South America and charging each about $10,000. The 42-year-old naturalized citizen isn’t a lawyer.

Prosecutors say he sent clients bogus federal documents showing approval for work authorization or other benefits but actually hadn’t filed applications.

Defense lawyer Oliver Storch says Mannert made a mistake, accepted responsibility and looks forward to a law-abiding life.

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