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Long Time Con Artist Targets Immigrants

He posed as a "commander" in the State Department and promised to fast-track legal status for immigrants.

It was not the first time Schoen LaBombard pretended to be a veteran and federal employee, but it might be his last.

In a ploy aimed at unwary immigrants, the 51-year-old New York State native allegedly posed as “Commander Sean Michael Lombardi,” a United States Department of State Diplomatic Security Service special agent. Francesca Bradley, 44, posed as his State Department “liaison.”

Together, for about six months in 2018, they targeted up to 70 immigrants, promising to fast-track their legal status, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Bradley and LaBombard stole at least $23,000 from 14 people before their arrest, according to the DA’s office. In an indictment filed last week, the two were charged with fraud, among other crimes. LaBombard’s lawyer had no comment.

Scams like LaBombard’s—that target immigrants with tenuous legal statuses—have proliferated in the wake of the shock and confusion created by the Trump administration’s constantly shifting policies on immigration, according to advocates, law enforcement officials and lawyers.  

In April 2018, Bradley began meeting immigrants seeking legal assistance in cafes in midtown Manhattan. She told them that she worked for “Commander Lombardi,” a high ranking State Department official—a title that no one in the agency holds. The Commander, she said, was eager to help immigrants earn legal status, given the federal government’s current stance on immigration.

The Commander had special connections at the United Nations, Bradley explained, and for a fee, he could help put them into a special visa program that was faster and cheaper than the standard routes to gaining legal residency.

During these meetings, Bradley collected personal information, took fingerprints and cash fees. Later, she showed them forged documents and collected more money. She promised meetings with the Commander, which never materialized. Eventually, victims of the scam approached the immigrant advocacy organization Make The Road New York and told them about LaBombard and Bradley. Representatives from Make the Road later approached the DA’s Immigrant Affairs Unit.

LaBombard has been deceiving people into giving him money for over two decades according to press reports. In 1993, LaBombard was training to become a professional bobsled driver. He got injured training and developed a cocaine addiction, according to a Times-Union article. LaBombard used an article written about himself to gather financial sponsors in the Batavia area. He stole about $28,000 from them.

Fifteen years later, LaBombard was arrested again for, among other charges, impersonating an investigator with the Albany Sheriff’s Department to extort an escort into having sex with him. He forced her to hand over $2,500 so he wouldn’t “arrest” her. LaBombard made for a convincing undercover officer, law enforcement officials said at the time. “He knew all the jargon,” Albany County Sheriff James Campbell said, according to the Daily Gazette, an Albany area newspaper. “This guy is a professional scam artist.”

Most recently, LaBombard resurfaced in Daytona Beach, Fla., as Alex Seppi, U.S. Navy SEAL. One day in 2014, he approached the clerk of a beachside motel. He told him his wallet had been stolen and he needed to get back to his base in Tampa. The owner of the restaurant attached to the motel gave him $500 and free meals.

“He is a very, very bad person,” Jim Brittain, owner of the Neptune’s Sports Pub and Cafe, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “He said he was a Navy SEAL so you do the right thing because these are the people who keep our country free.“ Brittian found LaBombard’s real ID in his motel room one day, while LaBombard was hospitalized for a broken leg. He googled LaBombard’s real name and quickly found his prolific criminal history.

An investigator from the DA’s office posed as an undocumented person seeking a visa and coaxed Bradley and LaBombard to describe the scheme in detail. LaBombard told the investigator he “protects the President of the United States and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley,” and that he’s a war veteran.

On August 1, investigators searched LaBombard’s hotel room at Hotel 31 on East 31th Street in Manhattan. They found forged documents, military and law enforcement uniforms, a fake gun and a badge that said “Dignitary Protection Agent, United States of America.”

Bradley was granted $100,000 bail, while LaBombard is being held in jail without bail. They are being charged together with two counts of scheme to defraud and one count of immigration services fraud. LaBombard is also being charged with thirteen counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument among other charges.

LaBombard’s attorney declined to comment on the charges.

They are both due in court in November.

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