Promised Her Job Status Would Bring Couple’s Children to U.S.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that a Nassau County employee in the Department of Social Services has been arrested and charged with grand larceny after promising a Hempstead couple that she would use her position in county government to bypass immigration proceedings and bring the couple’s three Peruvian children to the United States. After more than a year of promises and payments, the couple realized that they had been swindled by the employee, Tula Baffi, 42, of Floral Park.
Baffi has been charged with grand larceny in the third and fourth degrees. District Attorney investigators arrested her Monday morning while driving to work. Baffi was scheduled for arraignment on Monday in First District Court. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
“This woman exploited a hardworking couple’s desire to give their children a better life,” DA Rice said. “She preyed on them because she believed they would not have the courage to come forward and turn her in. She was wrong.”
Rice said that in April 2006, Baffi told the common-law married couple, who came to the United States from Peru in 2001, that she had a government job in which she helped people with immigration issues. Baffi offered to help the couple bring their three children to the U.S. from Peru. Baffi, a case worker for the Nassau County Department of Social Services since 2000, had no authority to help with federal immigration issues.
Baffi knew the couple because the wife had worked part-time cleaning Baffi’s house from 2002-2004. Baffi is also of Peruvian descent.
The couple share one common son, 9, and the father has a 13-year-old son and the wife a 12-year-old son, both from prior relationships. All three children live in Lima, Peru.
Rice said initially, Baffi suggested marrying the husband in exchange for $18,000, claiming that she would then use her parental status as a U.S. citizen to travel to Peru to retrieve the children. The couple rejected this idea, as it would leave one of the children, from the wife’s previous marriage, behind in Peru. Rice said Baffi then suggested that, for the $18,000 plus traveling expenses, she would go to Peru representing herself as the children’s godmother and take the children with her to Disneyworld. Baffi convinced the couple that her government job would ensure the process would go smoothly.
Rice said Baffi set up a payment plan with the couple whereby they would pay her $3,000 upfront and $500 per month until they paid off the final $15,000. As a condition of this arrangement, Rice said the couple also had to move into Baffi’s basement and pay her an additional $500 per month in rent. The couple agreed to this arrangement and from July 2006 to July 2007 paid her a total of $11,500.
In July 2006, Baffi traveled to Peru at the couple’s expense and explained that she would need to spend time with the children on this trip before she could bring them back to New York on a subsequent trip. Rice said while staying with the wife’s family in Peru, Baffi insisted the family install hot water for her and act as tour guides at their expense. When Baffi returned to New York, she told the couple that she would return to Peru in December 2006 to get the children.
As December approached, however, Rice said Baffi changed the plan and stated that she would go to Peru to marry the wife’s brother in the hopes that she could then return with the children, who were living with the brother at the time. Baffi and her son traveled to Peru, but Baffi never filed any marriage paperwork, later telling the couple that she would file the required marriage paperwork in New York. She never did.
In July 2007, the couple moved out of Baffi’s house and terminated their relationship with her. On August 4, 2007, Rice said Baffi agreed to pay the couple back the $11,500 she had taken from them. She made one payment of $500.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.