Gloria Saucedo, director of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Inc. of Panorama City, California, was in Los Angeles criminal court today where she pleaded no contest to the charge of practicing law without a license, agreeing not to contest the charges against her.
During the court hearing this morning, accepted a negotiated plea bargain agreement (plea agreement) with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, where the charges against him were reduced.
Although he stated "no contest"For law enforcement and court purposes, Saucedo is considered guilty as charged and now has a criminal record.
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What is Saucedo's plea bargain agreement?
The agreement means that the case of Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional will not go to trial.
As part of the agreement, the Prosecutor's Office:
- It reduced the number of charges against Saucedo to only one (practicing law without a license), with the condition that he must make restitution of more than $8,000 to the victims who filed complaints against him.
- He dismissed the charges against his associates María Chávez and Carmen Onchi.
- Added an infraction charge against Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional. for violating California state law by unlawfully offering paralegal services
More victims included in plea bargain agreement
The Prosecutor's Office also added to the agreement the names of 6 other affected victims, stipulating that Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional must reimburse the money paid to them.
According to the agreement, Saucedo must return more than $8,000 to Luz Landeros, Hermelinda Gallo, Silvestre Corral, Fernando Aguileta, Sergio Gómez, Josefina Navarette and María Delgado.
What does "no contest" mean?
"No contest" is a legal term in U.S. law that allows a defendant to plead in lieu of guilt or innocence after arraignment.
"No contest" means that the defendant refuses to discuss or admit guilt, but submits to a sentence as if found guilty, since he refuses to insist on his innocence.
Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional sentencing
Judge David Fields accepted the agreementSaucedo was sentenced to 24 months probation with 200 hours of community service and a fine of $$2,000 for Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, in addition to monetary restitution to be made to the victims.
The settlement does not include possible other victims who file new complaints against Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional.
The sentence will remain suspended while the defense attorney appeals the decision.
Judge Fields set October 7, 2016 for the next hearing, where restitution for each of the victims will be determined.
How the case started
The District Attorney's Office initiated the prosecution in March of this year, when it filed 5 charges against Saucedo, Chavez, Onchi and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional for practicing law without an attorney's license and violating the Immigration Advisors Act.
At a press conference, District Attorney Mike Feuer revealed that complaints from two alleged victims led the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs to conduct three undercover investigations in which they gathered enough evidence to bring charges against the women and their organization.
Due to poor advice Saucedo, Chavez, Onchi, two of the complainants, who were paid thousands of dollars to complete immigration proceedings, lost their cases and legal status.
Since the District Attorney's Office revealed the charges against Saucedo, dozens of others have filed complaints about her, her associates and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.
Had the trial been held and she was found guilty as charged, Saucedo faced up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $32,000. The other two women could have received a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $$1,000.
Settlement of case is victory in fight against unauthorized practice of law
This is a victory for the immigrant community, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs in their goal to go after individuals or organizations that practice law without a license and scam undocumented immigrants.
I denounced Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional and Hermandad Mexicana Legal Centers in 2013, but it took another 3 years before justice was served in the case of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional.
Where to report more complaints
If you or someone you know was victimized by Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional or anyone associated with this organization, call Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs investigators Annette Gonzalez at 323-881-7099, or Janet Godoy at 213-974-7241.
If you think you have been the victim of an immigration scam by another immigration consultant or notario, report it to the authorities in the state where you live and to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357.
It is very important that you do not remain silent if you have been a victim of Gloria Saucedo, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional or any other agency or individuals operating illegally. Only then can the weight of the law be brought down on these individuals and shut down businesses that prey on immigrants.
Providers like Gloria Saucedo and her organization Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional who offered legal services without a license have caused harm to immigrants, taking advantage of their vulnerability and need to seek legal status in the United States.