LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced his office has secured convictions against a San Fernando Valley woman, Gloria Dora Saucedo, for the unlicensed practice of immigration law, and her business, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, for performing unauthorized paralegal services, which allegedly adversely affected the immigration status of some clients.
“My office will fight to protect immigrants striving to gain lawful status in this country,” said Feuer.
Saucedo, 65, entered a plea of no contest to one count of unauthorized practiced of law and was sentenced to 24 months of probation and 200 hours of community service. A restitution hearing for seven individuals who were clients of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional is scheduled for October 7, 2016.
The business, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Inc. (7915 Van Nuys Boulevard), also entered a plea of no contest to an infraction for performing unauthorized paralegal services and will pay a $2,000 fine. Payment of the fine, restitution and fulfillment of community service has been stayed by the court pending appeal.
In September, 2012, the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) received a complaint from a consumer alleging she had paid $4,275 to employees of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional for assistance in obtaining a U Visa. The customer allegedly did not receive any service and was later denied an immigration petition for failure to submit the requested documentation. Investigators subsequently conducted three undercover investigations in 2014 and noted numerous alleged violations of the Immigrant Consultant Act, including non-lawyer employees allegedly providing legal advice on two occasions. This conduct allegedly took place prior to the defendants receiving accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Immigration consultants are not lawyers and have a very limited and specific role in helping clients complete the process to change their immigration status. The limited services immigration consultants may offer include completing immigration forms, but they can’t counsel consumers on which legal forms they need. They may translate answers but cannot advise consumers what answers to provide. They may secure supporting documents, submit forms and make free referrals to licensed attorneys.
Immigration consultants must give customers a written contract, in English and in the consumer’s language, and provide customers a three-day right to cancel without any charge. Immigration consultants must also post signs to make it clear they are not licensed attorneys, informing customers they can’t provide legal advice.
The conviction of Saucedo is part of an ongoing comprehensive enforcement and education campaign spearheaded by City Attorney Feuer, DCBA, and legal aid organizations to address alleged immigration scams. Individuals who believe they have been victimized by Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional or others should contact the City Attorney’s Office at (213) 978-8070 or DCBA at (800) 593-8222, or file a complaint through DCBA’s website.
Deputy City Attorneys Travis Austin and Onica Cole successfully prosecuted the case.