SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced felony charges against former attorney Mary Brooks for defrauding immigrant clients seeking citizenship. According to the complaint filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, Brooks stole over $100,000 from at least 14 different clients, promising services she never performed.
“We must be vigilant against predators, including unscrupulous lawyers and immigration consultants, who take advantage of immigrants, then use scare tactics to prevent them from reporting these crimes,” said Attorney General Harris. “Those who exploit and defraud hard-working immigrants trying to navigate a complex system are despicable, outrageous and will be held accountable.”
According to the arrest affidavit, Brooks met with clients for an initial consultation, demanded a lump sum of money, or allowed them to make payments, while assuring them she was working on their cases. The investigation revealed that she had not assisted the victims, which in some cases, had dire consequences. She repeatedly misled victims about the status of their cases and lied about paperwork she had submitted, while continuing to collect their money. Brooks also allegedly falsified documents in order to continue to scam her clients and used scare tactics to discourage victims from terminating her services. At one point, she threatened to inform immigration authorities about her client’s location and immigration status. Brooks also directed her employees to lie to clients about the submission of documents to the court that were never actually sent.
Brooks was a member of the Kansas State Bar, but because she was practicing immigration law, she took on California clients. According to the arrest affidavit, this led to losses for her clients in the State of California. Eventually, dozens of victims filed complaints, leading to the defendant surrendering her law license and being disbarred by the Kansas State Bar in 2015. However, even after being disbarred, Brooks continued to collect money from victims.
Any victims who feel they were defrauded by Brooks should call the Attorney General's office at 916-322-2686.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Kansas State Bar assisted with the Attorney General’s investigation. The Attorney General’s office is working with Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the University of California, Davis Immigration Law Clinic to ensure that victims defrauded by Brooks receive legal assistance.
The Attorney General's Office is dedicated to educating immigrant communities about the legal system and breaking down barriers that discourage immigrants from reporting violations of civil and criminal law. Attorney General Harris also issued two information bulletins to law enforcement agencies outlining their responsibilities and potential liability for complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal detainer requests for undocumented immigrants. The updated bulletin issued in June 2014 informed the agencies of new requirements they face since the enactment of the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tool Act (TRUST Act) and new federal case law that created legal risk for local law enforcement agencies that voluntarily comply with federal detainer requests.
Attorney General Harris has also issued consumer alerts and hosted a number of forums across California to provide immigrants and their families with information about President Obama’s immigration-related executive actions and tips to avoid predatory scams.
Please note that an arrest warrant contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Mary Brooks must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of the arrest warrant and complaint are attached to the online version of the news release at http://www.oag.ca.gov/news.