New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Resolves Enforcement Proceedings Against Four Businesses Accused in Scams Targeting Spanish-Speaking Immigrants
NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs continued its commitment to protecting the immigrant community from fraud by resolving enforcement proceedings against four businesses that were alleged to have perpetrated bogus immigration services schemes that targeted Spanish-speaking consumers.
“We will not tolerate any business seeking to profit by taking advantage of the immigrant community,” said Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy. “We will vigorously enforce our state consumer protection laws to prevent the exploitation of Spanish-speaking consumers and other immigrant populations.”
The four businesses had all been cited by the Division for allegedly violating the Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and Advertising Regulations in connection with services offered to immigrants.
Detex Corp. d/b/a “Navarro Tax Services,” Inmigracion (sic) Universal Co., and Martinez Travel Agency Incorporated, and its principal, were issued Notices of Violation last fall in connection with their advertisement, offer, and/or sale of Notary Public services. The Division issued a Notice of Violation to International Training Institute in January arising from its offering and/or sale of a three-day immigration training seminar that, among other things, misrepresented that a consumer can open and manage an immigration business.
“Notarios fraud” often uses cultural confusion to exploit Spanish-speaking consumers. In certain Latin American countries, notaries, known as “Notarios Publicos” may act as attorneys, prepare legal documents on behalf of clients, and provide legal advice. In the United States, public notaries cannot legally offer or perform these services. Further, under federal law, only attorneys or accredited representatives of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have the authority to provide legal advice and/or complete immigration forms with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Navarro Tax Services, Inmigracion Universal Co. and Martinez Travel Agency, agreed to settle the Notices of Violation. International Training Institute, Inc., based in Florida, failed to respond to the Notice of Violation, which resulted in the issuance of a Final Order on Default.
“The Division will continue to vigorously investigate and penalize businesses that perpetrate Notarios Publicos fraud because their victims suffer more than just financial losses,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Many victims can find themselves in legal trouble or face deportation after depending on the illegal and uninformed advice of a
The Notice of Violations were concluded as follows:
Navarro Tax Services, of Paterson, did not contest the allegations and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000.00 and to cease and desist from engaging in practices in violation of the CFA and the Advertising Regulations, including providing any immigration advice without participation in the Recognition & Accreditation Program with the USCIS.
Inmigracion Universal Co., of West New York, entered into a Consent Order and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000.00 and, among other things, to not mislead consumers to believe that it is qualified to provide advice as to immigration and citizenship and/or to prepare and file legal documents with the USCIS, when such is not the case.
Martinez Travel Agency, of Paterson, and its owner Juan Luis Girao, entered into a Consent Order and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000.00 and, among other things, to not advertise and offer for sale “Notary Public” services in such a way that they mislead consumers into believing that they are qualified to prepare and file legal documents with the USCIS, which such is not the case.
International Training Institute, of Sunrise, Florida, based in Florida, failed to respond to the Notice of Violation, which resulted in the issuance of a Final Order on Default. The business was ordered to pay $10,000.00 in civil penalties and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, as well as to cease and desist from engaging in any practices in violation of the CFA and the Advertising Regulations.
The enforcement proceedings against Navarro Tax Services, Inmigracion Universal Co., and Martinez Travel are the result of work done by a special task force established by the Division last year to investigate and prosecute Notarios Publicos fraud. Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security participated in this task force. Several other matters stemming from the task force are pending within the Division.
Investigators Murat Botas, Oscar Mejia and Luis Zuniga, in the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs, conducted the investigations.
Deputy Attorneys General Alina Wells and Labinot Berlajolli in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the Division in these matters.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its
website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.