TAMPA — A Florida man has been convicted of pretending to be an attorney and filing more than 200 fake immigration applications for victims in areas including Plant City, Ruskin and Wimauma.
Elvis Harold Reyes, 56, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Tampa federal court to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to court records. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the mail fraud and a mandatory consecutive two years for the identity theft. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.
According to court documents, Reyes owned and operated EHR Ministries Inc. He portrayed himself as an immigration attorney, though he has never had a law license. Reyes targeted undocumented immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries who were seeking Florida driver licenses and work authorizations.
Reyes gave false, inaccurate and incomplete legal and immigration advice to victims in order to induce them to retain his services and those of EHR Ministries, prosecutors said. Reyes filed some 215 fraudulent applications, with losses to victims exceeding $1 million.
Reyes portrayed himself as an attorney, pastor, accountant and former immigration official as he sought out victims in largely Hispanic areas of southern Hillsborough County.
An investigation by Univision Tampa Bay helped spur the initial investigation into Reyes by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Since February, more than 30 of his victims in southern Hillsborough County have worked as a group, talking on the phone, sharing text messages and organizing Zoom meetings to keep one another up to date on the court case.
Many of his victims lost money they had been saving for years.
“It has been very hard,” said one of them, Ignacio López of Ruskin, a 36-year-old husband and father of three who came to the United States illegally more than a decade ago from Mexico. Lopez said he lost $4,000 to Reyes. “We are humble people with family and children.”
Information from Tampa Bay Times archives was used in this report.