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Attorney General Lockyer Obtains Restraining Orders Against Central Valley "Immigration Consultants"
(FRESNO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced his office obtained temporary restraining orders against two Central Valley "immigration consultant" businesses charged with violating state law requiring immigration consultants to file $50,000 bonds with the state.
"To protect law-abiding consumers from unscrupulous operators who prey on immigrants, California law requires ‘immigration consultants' to post a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State's Office and comply with other legal requirements," Lockyer said. "We will continue to prosecute these companies that operate outside of the law and put the best interests of their clients at risk."
Fresno Superior Court Judge Hilary Chittick late Thursday granted the Attorney General's request for a temporary restraining order against Carlos Marquez and his Fresno business, Oficinas Marquez, located at 860 H-2 Fulton Mall, Second Floor. Also Thursday, Madera County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Detjen granted a similar order against Maritza Chavarri, also known as Maria Chavarri; Jorge Chavarri; and their Madera business, Centro Latino, located at 719 North D Street, Suite C.
Filed September 5, both of the complaints allege the defendants held themselves out as immigration consultants without filing a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State's Office, as required by law. The complaints also allege the defendants, none of whom are lawyers or were operating a non-profit, tax-exempt business, misled consumers about the services they could legally provide.
In addition to requesting the temporary restraining orders barring the companies from operating without a bond, the Attorney General also seeks civil penalties and reimbursement for the costs of investigating and prosecuting the defendants.
The Attorney General has filed more than two dozen civil actions across the state against immigration consultants and their businesses for failing to comply with laws regulating immigration consultants. Lockyer urged consumers to be careful when obtaining immigration services. 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 unlawful immigration consultant companies should contact the Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance by calling toll-free 1-888-587-0557.