In my this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I explain why you should report people who defraud immigrants as soon as possible without fear.
This is the column:
Unscrupulous individuals continue to prey on immigrants who need to fix their legal status in the United States, defrauding them and putting their status in the country at risk.
Three recent cases in the Los Angeles area highlight the brazenness of some notarios, immigration consultants, fake lawyers and people who illegally offer immigration services, and the terrible consequences of their actions. But it also demonstrates the importance of reporting them as soon as it is discovered that they are committing fraud.
If you or someone you know was deceived by one of these unscrupulous charlatans who gamble with the lives and future of immigrants, it is imperative to report it. Not only because you were affected, but because it is in your hands to stop these evildoers from scamming others and to stop the authorities from prosecuting them for their crimes.
Between March and April 2018, for example, authorities in California took legal action against four scammers who posed as immigration attorneys when they were not. Edgardo Antonio Guerrero, Hector Humberto Guerrero, Jessica Godoy Ramos and Romina Aida Zadorian scammed hundreds of people in Los Angeles County. Worst of all, in some cases they were doing it for years with no consequences - until now.
Edgardo Antonio Guerrero and Hector Humberto Guerrero of the Guerrero Office
Edgardo Guerrero, a 68-year-old Salvadoran who operated the Guerrero Office for approximately three decades. was arrested on March 22 accused of multiple criminal charges. Among them, unlawful practice of law, grand theft, and offering immigration consulting services without insurance, although he was released after posting $$80,000 bail.
California State Attorney's Office accused Edgardo Guerrero and his brother, Hector Humberto Guerrero of47 years old, for defrauding immigrants and recovered hundreds of immigration records during the search of the defendants' business. The Guerrero brothers charged thousands of dollars for procedures they were not legally qualified to provide. None of their victims obtained legal status as a result of their fraudulent actions.
The Guerrero brothers were defrauding immigrants for many years. It's hard to believe they haven't been arrested sooner. That is why it is so important to report scam artists like the Guerrero brothers, who prey on the vulnerability of immigrants desperately seeking a legal way to stay in the United States.
Jessica Godoy Ramos
The Godoy Ramos case demonstrates the need to verify credentials of the legal services provider.
United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California accused Godoy Ramos of stealing the identity of a New York attorney, filing some immigration applications using the real attorney's name, and in other cases, charging thousands of dollars for work she never did.
Godoy Ramos harmed approximately 50 victims. Some of her clients became aware of the scam when, sent by the fake lawyer, they went to appointments at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. There they learned that these appointments were never scheduled.
Godoy Ramos, 37 years old pleaded guilty of committing mail fraud and on April 18, 2018, she was sentenced to spend 15 months in prison and return nearly $$30,000 to some of the victims identified by the authorities. When he is released from prison, he will have to remain under house arrest for six months.
Romina Aida Zadorian
That same week, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, California filed 112 criminal charges against Romina Aida Zadorianalso known as Romina Zadourian Mancha. The 48-year-old woman, who allegedly posed as a lawyer, defrauded at least 82 immigrants$630,817, robbing them of at least US$$630,817.
Zadorian served clients from his home for at least three years. He promised fast processing of visas, family petitions and other immigration paperwork, claiming to his victims that he worked for the government and had special connections, but the reality was that he collected the money without performing the services.
Zadorian pleaded not guilty to all charges. Held on $$1.2 million bail, she faces up to 60 years in state prison if found guilty.
Report without fear of reprisals
Scammers take advantage of the fear of many undocumented immigrants to report abuses and crimes. In some cases, they are afraid to file a report because they think they will become a target of immigration authorities and could be deported. This is not the case.
Notaries, immigration consultants, fake lawyers and people who illegally offer immigration services are violating the law and their victims have certain protections.
If the fear of going to the police is too great, can report scammersto the consumer protection office in the city or state where you live.
More victims are being sought
Authorities believe that more people may have been victimized by the Guerrero brothers, Godoy Ramos and Zadorian and urge them to file complaints against them.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the Guerrero brothers or Jessica Godoy Ramos, you should contact Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs immediately by calling 213-974-1452.
People affected by Romina Aida Zadorian should contact the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office of Consumer Protection immediately by calling 213-257-2465.
How to avoid becoming a victim of fraud
I have been reporting cases of fake lawyers who defraud immigrants, including the cases of Gloria Saucedo, Eddie Bonilla, Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera, Sara Arcelia Salcido, Jesus Luna Lozano, Yehlen "Mary" Dorothea Brooks, Judith Palma, Bemilda "Linda" Asuncion Ruiz, Helaman Hansen, Eduardo Juarez, Rose Sanchez-Cañete, Maylin Silva.
Unfortunately, the cases of the Guerrero brothers, Godoy Ramos and Zadorian are other examples of how false lawyers harm the immigrant community.
Please be careful and do click here to read tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud.