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Apr 6, 2011 10:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Friends Are Now Partners With New Hampton Bays Business Venture

Apr 6, 2011 10:56 AM

If there is one thing that Benny Torres recognizes, it is how to spot a need for services.

A Puerto Rican with 15 years of experience in the insurance business, Mr. Torres said he began observing how Hispanics were in need of legal services—specifically, from lawyers who speak Spanish—when he served as an insurance representative with the Civil Service Employees Association during the 1990s.

“I was always helping the Hispanic community in different areas, so I began to recognize the need,” he said, “which is why, eventually, I decided that in order to help them more effectively, I had to branch out on my own.”

Seeking a new venture, Mr. Torres decided in October to open a branch of Fiesta Auto Insurance—a national chain with 74 locations across the United States—close to his Hampton Bays home. The West Montauk Highway location opened in January.

Looking to further bridge the language gap for Latinos by also offering them access to bilingual legal representation, Mr. Torres said he reached out to an old friend, Suffolk County Legislator Ricardo Montano, a partner with the Hauppauge law firm Ferruggia and Calisto, LLP.

With Puerto Rican roots of his own, Mr. Montano, who lives in Brentwood and represents Suffolk County’s 9th Legislative District, said he observed the same lack of services for Latinos. And that is what prompted him to open a branch of his law office in the same building now occupied by Fiesta Auto Insurance at 3A West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays in January. After overcoming some minor setup problems, both offices celebrated their official grand opening on Tuesday, March 29.

“This is an area where, because of what we offer, we can provide services and there is clearly a need for it in this area,” Mr. Montano said.

The formula for success, according to Edward Calisto, a lawyer from Bay Shore and one of the law firm’s senior partners, will be to offer insurance, tax preparation and legal services all under one roof.

“We are two separate businesses that will be sharing the costs of rent,” said Mr. Calisto, who speaks both Portuguese and Spanish, during a recent joint interview, “but the idea is like ...”

“... a one-stop shop for these kinds of services,” Mr. Torres interjected, finishing Mr. Calisto’s sentence. “If a prospective first-time homeowner, for example, comes in for homeowner’s insurance, they might also need a lawyer when they try to get a house, and this firm happens to offer real estate representation.”

Fiesta Auto Insurance specializes in insurance policies and tax preparation services for customers interested in both personal and commercial policies for automobiles, homes, rentals, condos, apartments and special events. Meanwhile, the law firm—where Mr. Calisto and Mr. Montano will set up appointments on a per-case basis—provides legal representation for accidents, personal injury claims, real estate transactions, criminal matters, bankruptcy proceedings, landlord/tenant litigation and more.

Although the firm does not handle immigration matters, Mr. Calisto said he has bilingual legal contacts to whom he can refer individuals seeking such assistance.

While their goal is to provide services for a broad spectrum of clients regardless of nationality, all three men acknowledged that their bilingual skills will allow them to connect with Spanish-speaking clients—a critical aspect that could determine the success of their joint venture.

Mr. Montano pointed to the recent 2010 Census—which noted a large spike in local Hispanic populations across Long Island, including a more than doubling of the population in Hampton Bays alone—as further proof of the need to provide such services for Latinos in the area.

“It’s a growing population, and the census just further cements what we thought in the first place,” Mr. Montano said.

“It’s not a community that just shuts down after September,” Mr. Torres added. “There will always be a need for Latinos who need help with legal problems, with insurance, with defensive driving, which I also offer. These are everyday problems that we can help with in our own ways.”

For Mr. Montano, that means offering security to Latinos seeking legal assistance, pointing to previous instances where people posing as lawyers have taken advantage of non-English speaking residents by providing legal services when they were, in fact, not licensed to do so.

“There have been people who preyed on a vulnerable population in the past by saying they could do these services, when they could not,” Mr. Montano said. “That won’t happen here. We are a licensed law firm and if we can’t help them here, we can refer them to someone who can.”

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Can you buy a house if you are not lega?
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 11 5:32 PM
you can, well, my girlfriend wasn't legal, but she had obtained a social security card through a loophole in the system (it has since been closed) anyway, she bought a house without a greencard, she ended up getting denied entry into the country later on, and we had to sell the house, she could not afford to make payments on it from outside the country. To make a long story short, if you are not legal, don't buy a house, unless you can maintain it under circumstances of deportation.
By TMundo (2), East on Apr 9, 11 12:16 PM
Well, that didn't take long, now did it?

FYI, at least twenty-nine percent of Hispanic/Latino immigrants ARE legal.

Please don't dumb down the forum.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 6, 11 5:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Brittanicus (1), Indianapolis on Apr 6, 11 6:21 PM
Don't delete the negative comments, I like arguing with ignorant people on the internet, I try and talk some sense into them. I'm white btw, but I dislike racism of any kind.
By TMundo (2), East on Apr 9, 11 12:18 PM