In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® reports on the judge's decision in the case of financial restitution to the victims of Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional.
This is the column:
The legal case against Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional Inc. of Panorama City, California has taken several months and is still ongoing. But a judge has already ordered the activist to reimburse the money she collected from several people who charged her for her services. Los Angeles City Attorney's Office noted she and her organization harmed while illegally providing immigration advice.
After hearing the testimony of several immigrants and reviewing the evidence provided to the Prosecutor's Office, the Judge David R. Fields reaffirmed at a hearing in late January that Saucedo must pay more than $$13,000 to at least five people who hired her to do immigration legal work and who reported her for poor advice.
Some of these people lost their legal status, social security benefits and even had to redo paperwork due to the negligence of Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional.
Saucedo was found guilty of practicing law without a license in August 2016 and signed a negotiated plea bargain agreement (plea agreement), reducing the charges against him. The agreement stipulated that he should reimburse his victims. But what remained to be determined was the amount to be returned to each person.
After analyzing the cases, the Judge determined that Saucedo must return to Maria Delgado, the widow of a U.S. Navy veteran who lost his legal status because of Saucedo, the money he paid her for his services and immigration fees. He must also compensate her for the social security benefit money she did not receive because she lost her legal status due to Saucedo's negligence.
The other victims to be reimbursed are Hermelinda Gallo, Sergio Gómez, Fernando Aguileta, Luz Landeros and Josefina Navarrete.
But none of the victims will receive the money immediately. Because Saucedo is appealing the case, despite having signed a plea bargain, the money must be deposited into a trust account of his defense attorney, Mark S. Rosen. If Saucedo loses the appeal, which is still ongoing, that money must be turned over to the victims.
It is unfortunate that Saucedo and his attorney continue to engage in legal maneuvers to avoid accepting responsibility and immediately reimburse clients harmed by practicing law without a license.
The sad part of this situation is that there are many more victims, but due to statutes of limitations that limit the time period for filing a criminal action against persons practicing law without a license to three years, many of them could not be included in the process, nor will they be able to recover their money.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer AffairsIn addition, approximately 30 additional complaints were received with losses of $52,000 that could not be included in the lawsuit due to time limits stipulated by law and other reasons.
After one of the court hearings, Saucedo confirmed to the press that he has been providing legal services since 1997. That means he has been practicing law without a license for approximately 18 years.
People who went to Saucedo or his organization and were harmed by bad advice before 2013 may not be able to file a lawsuit against him for practicing law without a license. But they can report it to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs to prevent more people from being harmed.
If you were a victim of Saucedo or another person not authorized to provide immigration legal services more than three years ago, file a complaint and then consult with a licensed California attorney to see if there are any exceptions that would still allow you to file a lawsuit after the deadline.
If you or someone you know was victimized by Gloria Saucedo, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional de Panorama City or persons 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.
Although Saucedo - for the time being - got a temporary authorization to offer immigration legal advice, she has demonstrated, with these criminal court cases, that she does not have good moral character, nor the ability to help immigrants facing complex immigration legal proceedings. And this is something that any immigrant who is considering coming to her and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional should take into account.
Now more than ever, given the restrictions, uncertainty and changing immigration policies in the country, it is important to turn to an immigration attorney or accredited representative of the federal government who is licensed, experienced and has not defrauded immigrants in the past. Do not gamble with your immigration future in the United States.
I thank the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs for investigating and prosecuting Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional of Panorama City. I especially want to thank investigators Rigoberto "Rigo" Reyes, Annette Gonzalez, Janet Godoy and Esther Martinez and District Attorney Mike Feuer and Deputy District Attorneys Tina Hess, Austin Travis and Onica Cole for all the work they have done to help the immigrant community.