Attorney General Bill Lockyer Obtains Preliminary Injunction Against Unscrupulous Immigration Consultants
(LOS ANGELES) – The Los Angeles County Superior Court today issued a preliminary injunction sought by Attorney General Bill Lockyer against Asian Pacific Legal Services ("APLS"); its owners, Walter Wenko and Miao Huang; and six lawyers who allegedly allowed their names to be used to further the false impression that legal services were being provided to immigrant clients.
"This is another important step in an on-going effort to stop unscrupulous immigration consultants who take advantage of vulnerable Californians knowing that because of language barriers and fear they will not report being victimized," Lockyer said. He noted that other legal actions could be brought against unscrupulous immigration consultants elsewhere in the state.
The preliminary injunction issued by Superior Court Judge Jon Mayeda prohibits the defendants from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, illegal fee splitting, violations of the Immigration Consultant Act, and continuing to make false and misleading statements to their immigrant clients regarding the type and quality of legal services provided, and the case results that would be obtained.
The Attorney General in October filed a civil complaint against APLS, its owners and the six lawyers for allegedly taking advantage of immigrant clients. The complaint alleges that the defendants have been illegally portraying themselves as lawyers, engaging in false advertising and violating state laws regulating immigration consultants. Five of the nine individual defendants did not oppose the Attorney General's motion and stipulated to the preliminary injunction.
The Attorney General earlier obtained preliminary injunctions against Immigration Solution Center and Immigration World Wide Services, two large immigration consultant firms in Los Angeles. The Attorney General filed civil complaints against these companies alleging false advertising and violations of state laws regulating immigration consultants. These two companies were ordered last month to immediately stop advertising themselves as lawyers, provide specified training to employees to prevent misleading customers and to make available to clients copies of documents completed on their behalf.
The Attorney General's lawsuit against APLS alleges that the company and its employees have since at least April 1998 engaged in an improper scheme to sell immigration and other legal services, primarily to Chinese-speaking immigrants in the Alhambra and Monterey Park area of Los Angeles County. Although disbarred in March 1998, Wenko advertised his company in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Chinese Consumer Yellow Pages for Southern California under the "Attorneys" section. The company also sought to mislead clients by promising legal advice and services and guaranteeing favorable results it could not reasonably assure.
The complaint alleges that clients were harmed by receiving incorrect or incompetent legal advice from non-attorneys, inaccurate translations of client statements, or had applications or rebuttals denied because of the lack of preparation by the attorneys used by the company.
Attorney General Lockyer urged consumers to be careful about who they consult on immigration issues, noting that the Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance has developed the brochure, "Immigration Services: Protecting Your Consumer Rights," which is available on the California Department of Justice web site at: http://ag.ca.gov/immigrant/publications.htm