LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced felony charges against Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera, owner and operator of a Los Angeles-based business known as the Coalicion Latinoamericana Internacional (CLI), for defrauding immigrants. Cabrera, who is not licensed as an attorney in California, is charged with 22 counts of grand theft, attempted grand theft, attempted perjury, and conspiracy to engage in the unlawful practice of law. Charges have also been filed against his wife, Maria Marcelina Rodas.
“We must be vigilant against predators, including unscrupulous lawyers and immigration consultants, who take advantage of vulnerable undocumented immigrants, then often use scare tactics to prevent them from reporting these crimes,” said Attorney General Harris. “Mr. Cabrera’s deception cost dozens of immigrants their hard-earned savings and tore families apart. Scam artists who exploit immigrants trying to navigate a complex system must be held accountable.”
The arrest warrant affidavit alleges that Cabrera often posed as an attorney and provided legal consultations and services, charging up to $9,000. Despite lacking accreditation or a license to practice law, he posed as an immigration lawyer and expert with a proven record of helping immigrants on major media platforms in both mainstream and Spanish-language media. The defendant used his prominent profile to solicit customers who he then duped.
Cabrera repeatedly misled his victims about the status of their cases, misinformed them about their eligibility for immigration relief, and completed immigration forms improperly while continuing to collect victims’ money. Cabrera also ignored or lied to victims in an attempt to avoid giving refunds, sometimes for thousands of dollars, while denying any wrongdoing. In some instances, Cabrera’s handling of immigration cases had irreparable consequences, leading to the deportation of victims’ family members.
The arrest warrant affidavit also alleges that Cabrera provided immigration consulting services without having completed the necessary registration with the California Secretary of State, and that he and his wife, Maria Marcelina Rodas, conspired to violate the Immigration Consultants Act.
The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs was instrumental in reaching out to the victims of Cabrera’s fraudulent scheme and investigating their complaints. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security also assisted with the investigation.
The Attorney General’s Office is working with non-profit organizations and legal clinics to ensure that victims defrauded by Cabrera receive legal assistance.
Anyone who has received immigration assistance from Cabrera or CLI and believes they may be a victim of this fraudulent scheme is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs immediately by calling 323-881-7099.
The Attorney General’s Office is committed to providing immigrant communities with accurate information about the legal system and breaking down barriers that discourage immigrants from reporting violations of civil and criminal law. In 2015, Attorney General Harris issued a law enforcement bulletin summarizing California’s Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act (SB 674), which provided guidance to California law enforcement agencies on how to comply with the new state U visa requirements, which aimed to help prosecutors obtain convictions while strengthening the relationship of trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Previously, Attorney General Harris 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 Tools 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 a series of consumer alerts on issues that impact immigrant communities, and in 2015 and 2016 hosted a number of forums across California to provide thousands of immigrants and their families with information about President Obama’s immigration-related executive actions and tips to avoid immigration consultant fraud and predatory scams.
The Attorney General’s Office is part of local and national Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPIL) Task Forces that investigate and prosecute immigration fraud cases.
Please note that an arrest warrant contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera and Maria Marcelina Rodas, must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The 22-count felony complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is attached to the online version of this news release at http://www.oag.ca.gov/news.