Fraud directed at legal and undocumented immigrants is a serious
problem in Los Angeles County. While immigration fraud can take many
forms, it most often occurs as false promises for immigration
services that sound too good to be true. By making false promises,
con artists attempt to justify excessive "service" fees they demand.
Once a victim pays the large sum of money, the con artist refuses to
help the individual and often reports the person to the INS as
The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division prosecutes
businesses engaging in immigration fraud as the law breakers that
they are. To that end, the Consumer Protection Division has
organized the Los Angeles Immigration Fraud Task Force, a
multi-agency law enforcement effort which attacks immigration fraud
through the investigation of fraudulent activity, the prosecution of
fraud artists, and educational efforts. Those charged with
fraudulent immigration practices face severe monetary fines and
potential jail sentences.
California law protects consumers from dishonest immigration
consultants and attorneys. The following information explains
What To Look For in an immigration consultant or
attorney and offers Where Victims Can Find Help.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Immigration Consultants: California law
regulates providers of non-legal immigration services. The more you
know about what they can and cannot do for you, the less likely you
are to become a victim.
Immigration consultants may assist you in
completing forms, translating materials, obtaining and submitting
necessary documents, and finding legal aid. However, they are
not lawyers, may not give legal advice, and do
not necessarily have any special
training. Be wary and look for the following:
All immigration consultants must file a $50,000 bond with the
California Secretary of State’s Office or be subject to criminal
charges. This bond is important because the money is used by the
State to benefit any person damaged by fraud or other unlawful
acts. You have the right to request proof of this bond. If a
consultant cannot show you proof, look for somebody else to help
Consultants must always use a written contract when making an
agreement with you. This contract must be approved by the State of
California. Furthermore, the law requires that the contract be in
English and your native language. Make sure it lists all services
to be performed and their total cost. You have the right to cancel
the contract for any reason within three days and to receive a
It is illegal for a consultant to use the terms "Notario" or "Licenciado"
or to misrepresent himself or herself as an attorney. Consultants
must disclose in advertising that they are not lawyers.
Consultants should not split fees with attorneys in any
Attorneys: Attorneys, who must have proof of bar association
membership, may also assist you with your immigration status.
Immigration attorneys must disclose in their advertising that they
are active members of the State Bar and licensed to practice in
California. If their practice is limited to immigration law,
attorneys need not be a member of the California Bar, but must
either be admitted to a bar in another state or be before the Board
of Immigration Appeals. Attorneys must always be able to disclose
their eligibility status.
To verify if an individual is a California attorney, contact the
California State Bar at (213) 765-1000. If you are working with an
attorney, understand that he or she should never split fees with or
give a referral fee to immigration consultants.
WHERE VICTIMS CAN FIND HELP
Reporting Possible Crimes: If you believe an
immigration consultant has cheated you, you can get help. The
District Attorney’s Office urges you to notify authorities when
fraud occurs. To report a possible crime, contact your local police
or sheriff’s department. Or, if you would like to file a consumer
complaint about fraudulent activity, contact the Department of
Consumer Affairs at (213) 974-1452.
You may also call the District Attorney’s
Consumer Protection Division at (213) 580-3273. We are here to help
you, regardless of your residence status, and to ensure that all
immigrants are protected from fraud.
Seeking Legal Aid: If you would like to speak
to an attorney about how to get your money back from an immigration
consultant who you believe cheated you, there are many agencies that
can assist you. The Los Angeles County Bar Association can
refer you to qualified attorneys. Call (213) 243-1525.
If you need legal assistance but cannot afford an
attorney, you may contact the following organizations: