Attorney General Bob Ferguson has taken action against four companies, in Lakewood, Everett and Tacoma, accused of offering fraudulent legal services to immigrants.
OLYMPIA — Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday he has taken action against four companies accused of offering fraudulent legal services to immigrants.
At a Seattle news conference, Ferguson said unlicensed immigration consultants who refer to themselves as “notarios” or “notarios publicos” are misrepresenting themselves to consumers as having advanced legal training. Victims face losing their immigration status if a deadline is missed or paperwork is filled out incorrectly, he noted.
“The consequences for fraud can hardly be more significant than that,” Ferguson said.
A measure signed into law in 2011 in Washington state made it illegal for unauthorized consultants to work on immigration processes that can only be provided by attorneys or other qualified representatives.
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Ferguson’s office has taken the following action:
• A $235,000 lawsuit against EC New Horizons and EC Horizons and their owners Edwin Cruz and Maurice Terry, of Lakewood. Ferguson said they violated a 2011 agreement with the attorney general’s office to stop providing unauthorized legal advice. Since then, Ferguson’s office said they ignored the order and have provided legal services to more than 400 people. The $235,000 action includes about $150,000 in restitution for victims. When reached by phone Wednesday, Cruz refused to comment, but said his business was closed.
• Imposing $16,995 in penalties and fees against Rosi Immigration Services in Tacoma. Ferguson said the business has closed.
• Imposing $8,000 in civil penalties and $1,500 in costs and fees against Servicio en Español LLC in Everett and enjoining them from further illegal conduct.
• Assessing $8,000 in civil penalties and $1,500 in costs and fees against Orona & Associates, also in Everett, and enjoining them from further illegal conduct.
Messages left with Servicio en Español and Orona & Associates on Wednesday were not returned.
Ferguson said other companies around the state are being investigated. He would not provide details. He also announced a $125,000 grant to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to help deal with unauthorized practice of immigration law.
Jorge Barón, executive director of that group, said it’s difficult to determine how many people might be affected by immigration-services fraud, because victims often are too afraid to alert authorities if they’ve been scammed.
“They may get a deportation order and not seek help,” he said.
Ferguson and Barón said consumers seeking immigration help should always ask to see the person’s bar license and should use online resources to check if the group or organization is authorized to practice law or authorized under federal law to provide immigration services.