Two Southern California women have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in a “notario” scam. The story is here.
The two are accused of charging six customers up to $24,000 for filing fraudulent permanent residency applications with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The marriage-based immigrant petitions were allegedly filed on behalf of non citizen spouses who were not eligible to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
The two women face up to 60 years in federal prison for their alleged activities which, according to the grand jury indictment, included submitting fake I-94s to USCIS and threatening to report complaining customers to the authorities and have them deported. The pair were previously sued by the California Attorney General in 2003 and entered into settlement agreements promising not to repeat their conduct.
If the allegations are true, this would be one of the most brazen instances of “notario" fraud I have ever heard of. Not only do the allegations involve charging customers unconscionable fees for frivolous filings, but the two women are also accused of threatening to report customers to the very same agency (DHS) the women were allegedly trying to defraud.
The public needs to be educated about the dangers of hiring “notarios” to file immigration benefits applications. While there are laws on the books to protect consumers from immigration scams involving non-lawyers the problem of “notario” fraud is so widespread that authorities cannot stop all the shady operators who exploit the vulnerable immigrant population for pecuniary gain. Consumers who are in need of assistance with their immigration matters should consult a competent attorney or a representative accredited by the BIA.
Timothy D. Widman is a Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, with offices in San Jose and Cupertino.