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Attorney General Lockyer Files Complaints Against Four Fraudulent 'Immigration Consultants'
(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed complaints against four Central Valley businesses that were illegally operating as immigration consultants. The companies and their owners were operating without having filed bonds and ignoring other state laws designed to protect their clients.
"These actions are intended to send a notice to all unscrupulous individuals who pose as immigration consultants, placing at risk the finances and the legal status of thousands of immigrants who seek legal status and services in California," Lockyer said. "If you don't follow the law and obtain the bonds needed to protect your clients or if you hold yourself out as providing services you legally cannot provide, we will close you down."
Three of the complaints were filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court against Stockton businesses. The fourth complaint was filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court against a Modesto company.
The complaints allege the businesses and their owners engaged in unlawful and unfair business practices by failing to file $50,000 bonds with the Secretary of State's Office before practicing as immigration consultants and failing to display notices detailing crucial consumer protection. Under California law, immigration consultants shall conspicuously display in the office evidence of compliance with the bonding requirements, a statement that the consultant is not an attorney, the fees for each service offered, and the name of each consultant employed at the office.
Named as defendants were:
Angelica M. Tellez, Ricardo Tellez and Tellez Administrative Service, 602 E. Hatch Road, Modesto.
Gloria K. Bello and Gloria K. Bellow Immigration Services, 306 E. Main St., Stockton.
Cindy A. Aguirre and Cindy A. Aguirre Immigration Services, 1201 N. Center St., Suite B, Stockton.
Hector Melendez and Melendez Enterprises, 2300 E. Waterloo Road, #3, Stockton.
The complaints ask the court to permanently enjoin the defendants and their employees, officers and other business associates from operating in violation of California law, assess civil penalties of $100,000 each and reimburse the state for attorneys' fees and costs.
Since 1994, immigration consultants have been required to file bonds before conducting business in California. As Attorney General, Lockyer sponsored a bill that went into effect Jan. 1, 2002, requiring anyone who advertises as, or holds themselves out to be, an immigration consultant to file a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State's Office. Another bill Lockyer sponsored, SB 1194 by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, bolstered penalties against unscrupulous non-attorneys who promote themselves as "immigration law specialists" and offer unlawful legal advice to immigrants seeking help in obtaining jobs, establishing citizenship and other activities. The law authorizes courts to award victims financial damages, up to $100,000 in civil penalties per violation, attorneys' fees and other compensation.
Lockyer also sponsored legislation to clarify that the attorney general, district attorney or city attorney may seek civil penalties of up to $100,000 per violation and injunctive relief against immigration consultants who violate state law. That measure, AB 1999 by Assemblyman Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, went into effect Jan. 1, 2003.
The four lawsuits are the latest targeting immigration consultants illegally operating in California. Since 2001, the Attorney General's Office has filed a total of 24 lawsuits against dozens of individual defendants.