John Roemer, Special to the Bar Journal
Immigrants often have a tough time in the U.S., but when unscrupulous "consultants," "advisers" and "notarios" prey on newcomers who don't understand English well, immigrants can lose their money -and jeopardize their prospects of gaining documented status.
Exhibit A: Lacayo & Associates in San Francisco's Mission District. Leonard J. Lacayo is not a lawyer, but you'd never know it from his website. It claims that as a "highly respected... immigration consultant," Lacayo offers "legal services" and has "successfully legalized over 40,000 immigrants, and which presently represents over 9,000 families in ongoing legalization procedures." Lacayo, his home page claims, "operates in principles of professionalism."
Exhibit B: Gloria Dora Saucedo, a San Fernando Valley woman who ran immigration consultancy Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional on Van Nuys Boulevard and who pleaded guilty in August to one count of unauthorized practice of law for performing unlicensed paralegal services that allegedly adversely affected the immigration status of some clients, according to Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. A restitution hearing was set in October for seven of Saucedo’s clients.
The plague of fraudsters posing as lawyers or suggesting they are licensed attorneys to scam immigrants is widespread, experts said
The State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel is focused on getting complaints about this kind of fraud into the hands of law enforcement earlier. I n order to speed up the process, the bar is no longer waiting until its investigations are complete to refer complaints about the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) to law enforcement, said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Gregory Dresser. So far in 2016 the State Bar has received about 108 complaints about UPL involving immigration law.
I n August, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera sued Lacayo and what Herrera called his "predatory" business for breaking state laws against false advertising, unfair competition and for violation of the Immigration Consultant Act, a state law enacted in 1987 and strengthened in 1997. The law gives...