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Immigration Consultants

On October 3, 2001, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General, filed two civil actions to combat immigration consultant fraud. These cases are entitled People of the State of California, ex rel. Bill Lockyer v. Immigration Solution Center ("ISC") and People ex rel. Bill Lockyer v. Immigration World Wide Services, Inc. ("IWWS"). Both complaints seek civil penalties, restitution, injunctive and other relief and allege claims under the Business and Professions Code, including violations of the Immigration Consultants Act, unlawful business practices, and untrue or misleading representations.

In September 2003, in People of the State of California, ex rel. Lockyer v. Immigration World Wide Services, the Office of the Attorney General secured stipulated judgments against eight individual defendants and the defendant business in this immigration consultant fraud case. The owner is enjoined to close the business 90 days from date of entry of judgment. The closing will be overseen by a monitor selected by this office and paid for by the owner. The judgment details the manner in which the business is to be closed, and includes: (1) a requirement that the owner notify approximately 5,500 former clients of the date on which the business is to be closed; (2) that all balances owed on client contracts entered into between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2001, are canceled; and (3) that former clients may retrieve their original files maintained by the business. The notification is to be accomplished by both individual letters to these clients and by publication of a notice in Los Angeles' major Spanish language newspaper, La Opinion. Following closure of the business, the owner and the business are prohibited from in any way participating in the immigration consulting business for a period of two years. The owner and his business are also permanently required to comply with all applicable laws. The other settling defendants, including two attorneys and five non-attorneys, are permanently required to comply with all applicable laws, and ordered to pay restitution to nine victims who came forward; civil penalties; attorney's fees and costs totaling $26,000. The attorney defendants are also required to perform community service work. Lastly, the owner is prohibited from collecting $280,000 in accounts receivable from victims.

In September 2003, in People ex rel. Lockyer v. Immigration Solutions Center, the Office of the Attorney General secured stipulated judgments against two attorney defendants and four non-attorney defendants in this immigration consultant fraud case. The settling defendants are ordered to pay restitution to 15 victims who came forward; civil penalties; attorney's fees and costs totaling $169,000. All defendants are permanently required to comply with the Immigration Consultant Act, and California laws regulating lawyer referral services and prohibiting the unlicensed practice of law. One of the attorney defendants is also required to perform community service work. A six-day trial against the business and its owner was held in October 2003, in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. On March 1, 2004, the Court issued a judgment against the business and its owner that awarded $479,000 in civil penalties and broad injunctive relief to curb their unlawful business practices.

Since October 3, 2001, the Attorney General has filed a total of over 28 civil actions throughout California to combat immigration consultant fraud. These cases were filed the Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Fresno, Madera, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin.

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