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Attorney General Lockyer Obtains Restraining Orders Against Three "Immigration Consultants"
(SAN FRANCISCO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today obtained temporary restraining orders against three unbonded Bay Area immigration consultant businesses, prohibiting them from operating until they comply with state consumer protection laws.
"We continue to see cases in which immigrants trying to establish new lives in our state put their trust and money into the hands of unscrupulous individuals whose only intent is to pocket the money and run," Lockyer said. "California law requires immigration consultants to post a bond and comply with other requirements that are intended to protect consumers against fraud. Those companies that do not are operating illegally and will be shut down."
In the lawsuits, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, the Attorney General alleges the individuals running these businesses advertised themselves as "immigration consultants" or as providing "immigration services" in magazines, the Yellow Pages and other publications, or by word of mouth. Yet none of the "immigration consultants" has filed a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State's Office, as required by law.
The temporary restraining orders will prohibit the companies from operating until they have met legal requirements. The defendants also will be subject to penalties for operating without a bond and will have to reimburse the state for its costs in bringing the suit.
Named in the complaints were the following San Francisco businesses and their owners:
Miriam Chanamé and Miriam Chanamé Tax Service
Evelyn Herrera and Herrera Escobar Services
Conny Prado and Partyland Income Tax
Since 1994, immigration consultants have been required to file a bond with the Secretary of State's Office. Attorney General Lockyer sponsored the bill passed in 2001, SB 1194 by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that require individuals who advertise themselves as immigration consultants to file a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State. The law also provides for penalties to be paid by those who violate the Immigration Consultants Act.
The legal actions follow similar lawsuits filed by the Attorney General in January against five unbonded San Francisco immigration consultants, in March against three unbonded San Mateo immigration consultants and in 2001 against three major Los Angeles immigration consultant companies that were illegally portraying themselves as lawyers, engaging in fraudulent advertising and violating state laws regulating immigration consultants.
Lockyer urged consumers to be careful when obtaining immigration services. Immigration consultants are not attorneys or experts in immigration law. They cannot provide legal assistance with immigration matters, nor can they provide advice about how to fill out forms needed for immigration.
The Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance has developed a brochure, "Immigration Services: Protecting Your Consumer Rights," which is available in seven languages: Armenian, Chinese, English, Hmong, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. The brochures can be viewed at www.ag.ca.gov/immigrant/publications.htm
Californians who believe they may be victims of similar abuses by these companies should contact the Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance by calling toll-free 1-888-587-0557.