Gloria Saucedo, who was found guilty of practicing law without a license in August 2016, was not present yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court where hearings continue to determine the amount of money she owes to reimburse various victims.
In October, Judge David Fields heard testimony from four immigrants who denounced Saucedo to authorities, accusing her of harming their immigration cases, forcing them to seek legal assistance elsewhere to resolve serious problems caused by negligence and mistakes made by her and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Inc. of Panorama City, California.
According to these victims, because of the errors, they had to redo paperwork that Saucedo had already done and again pay the corresponding fees to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and for his services.
For example, one of the victims, Hermelinda Gallo, explained how one of Saucedo's employees put incorrect information on a form to request a provisional pardon from the punishment law. When the government rejected her application, she was told by Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional that she would have to redo the paperwork. Gallo complained to Saucedo.
"Mrs. Saucedo answered me very rudely, and when I told her I had no more money to pay she told me she couldn't do free work because she had to pay the rent," she recalled crying outside the courthouse. "I told her...one day God is going to punish you. That day came."
At yesterday's hearing, Judge Fields said that Saucedo will have to reimburse her victims for the fees they had to pay USCIS and the fees she charged them for her services.
He also indicated that in the case of Maria Delgado, the widow of a U.S. Navy veteran, Saucedo will have to replace the Social Security money that Delgado did not receive for several months because her monthly benefits were terminated when she lost her legal status due to the negligence of Saucedo and his organization.
The Judge rejected arguments by Marc Rosen, Saucedo's defense attorney, who attempted to challenge the fee refunds to USCIS.
The individuals who sued Saucedo are only asking to recover the money they lost due to the negligence of Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional. Between six of the victims, the total amount is more than $$12,000.
The victims need to recover this money because they are in difficult economic situations. One of the victims, for example, lost her job and her home.
For Sergio Gomez, recovering the thousands of dollars he invested and had to pay again to redo the paperwork to petition for his children will be a small relief in the midst of the mess he says Saucedo made of his children's cases.
"He's ruining people's lives," Gomez said as he left the hearing in October.
Restitution to her victims is part of a plea agreement that Saucedo, the director of Panorama City's Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, agreed to in order to avoid going to trial.
In that agreement, the Prosecutor's Office stipulated that Saucedo was to return the money lost by several of his victims due to his negligence in making immigration arrangements that caused serious damage to their cases.
There will be a hearing to hear testimony from other victims on January 27, 2017. It is likely that on that day, the Judge will rule on the amount of money to be returned to each of the victims included in the plea bargain agreement.
On the other hand, although Saucedo accepted the settlement with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, she and her attorney are appealing the case. That means they will continue to make legal maneuvers to avoid accepting liability and reimbursing money to clients harmed by practicing law without a license.
I recommend that you do not use the services of Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional of Panorama City. They have violated the trust that the immigrant community placed in their hands and do not accept full responsibility for the damage they have caused.
The allegations in the current court case do not include all of the complaints against Saucedo.
Unfortunately, the law stipulates that the maximum time a person has to file a lawsuit in cases of unlicensed practice of law is three years.
Saucedo confirmed to the press that she has been providing legal services since 1997. That means she has been practicing law without a license for 18 years. People who went to Saucedo or her organization and were harmed by bad advice before 2013 cannot file a lawsuit against her for practicing law without a license. However, they can report it to the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs to prevent more people from being harmed.
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.