NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Charges Immigration Service Providers, Part of National “Combating Immigration Services Scams” Initiative
NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and State Division of Consumer Affairs today filed complaints against three companies that falsely advertised they were authorized to prepare immigration documents on behalf of clients. Only attorneys, or certain other accredited representatives authorized by the Federal government, may file legal documents such as immigration forms on a client’s behalf.
Additionally, the State alleges that one of the companies filed immigration forms on behalf of a naturalized US citizen, whose daughters later were threatened with deportation because the documents were insufficient and filed incorrectly.
“The victims in these cases are legal immigrants seeking to extend their visas or apply for citizenship, as so many millions have done since the founding of our nation,” Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “Unfortunately, scammers see those with limited English proficiency or a limited awareness of American law as easy prey. They falsely claim to be attorneys, or pretend they are authorized to file immigration documents on behalf of a client. As a result, legal immigrants lose money or even find themselves facing deportation due to documents filed fraudulently or not filed at all.”
The complaints were announced today as part of “Combating Immigration Services Scams,” a nationwide initiative in which the Office of the Attorney General and State Division of Consumer Affairs have joined with the Federal Trade Commission, the US Department of Justice’s Civil Division and Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), several state Attorneys General, and a number of city and county law enforcement authorities. The initiative was announced today in Washington, DC and at regional centers across the country. Nationwide, the initiative includes lawsuits and local administrative actions against immigration service providers, as well as new consumer education efforts in multiple languages, and increased cooperation among enforcement partners.
“We’re taking a stand against unscrupulous businesses who seek to exploit the confusion many legal immigrants have over certain cultural and linguistic differences, such as the definition of a notary public versus the definition of a lawyer,” Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “Unscrupulous immigration service providers falsely claim they are authorized to file immigration documents or provide other legal services. Their victims pay for what they think are honest services, and end up getting ripped off, losing precious savings and valuable documents such as birth certificates or passports, or even facing deportation due to the filing of incomplete or fraudulent paperwork.”
The Division of Consumer Affairs filed complaints today against the following immigration services providers: Lili Pablo Agents, LLC, of Elizabeth; RMS Services, Inc., of Elizabeth; and RC Travel, LLC, of Newark.
The matter against RMS Services, Inc., began with a complaint that a consumer filed against the company with the Division of Consumer Affairs on March 14, 2011. The consumer, a naturalized citizen of the United States who was born in Colombia, sought in May 2009 to file Petitions to Remove Conditions of Residence for her two daughters, then ages 14 and 19.
The State’s complaint alleges that Ana Burgos, who worked at RMS and held a commission as a notary public, allegedly told the consumer she could help with the preparation and filing of the necessary documents, even though she was not an attorney. Burgos allegedly accepted $450 and filed the documents.
However, because the documents prepared by Burgos were allegedly insufficient, the daughters’ rights to live and work in the United States were in danger of being revoked by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The mother then retained a legitimate attorney, and paid $500 in attorney’s fees and a filing fee of $545, to resolve the matter.
The complaints against Lili Pablo Agents, LLC, and RC Travel, LLC, resulted from undercover investigations by the Division of Consumer Affairs. The State alleges that both companies violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations, by offering to prepare immigration forms, despite not being authorized to do so.
In addition to its enforcement action, the Division of Consumer Affairs this summer will conduct an awareness campaign for the benefit of New Jersey’s immigrant families. Division of Consumer Affairs personnel will hold public education meetings with community-based groups, work with ethnic media, and place information on the Division’s website in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.
The Division has developed flyers on “Combating Immigration Services Scams” and placed them on the Division’s website, in English at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/press/ImmigrationScams.pdf and in Spanish at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/press/ImmigrationScamsSP.pdf .
The flyers explain that:
View Lili Pablo Agents, LLC Complaint
Only attorneys and certain other accredited representatives authorized by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, are authorized to prepare legal documents such as immigration forms, give advice on legal matters, or represent clients in a legal proceeding. Consumers seeking to learn whether an individual or organization is authorized to perform these services can visit www.USCIS.gov/immigrationpractice or call USCIS at 800-375-5283.
Scammers who pretend they are authorized to file immigration forms, often leave their victims facing financial losses, possible deportation, and the loss of irreplaceable documents such as birth certificates or passports.
Dishonest businesses often use advertisements designed to take advantage of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings. The term “notario publico,” or “notary public,” has been used to deceptively represent that a person is licensed to provide legal services, because the term has a very different meaning in some Latin American countries than it does in the United States.
Anyone who solicits business by falsely claiming to be an attorney is committing a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and is subject to a civil penalty of $10,000; and anyone who knowingly engages in the unauthorized practice of law is committing a fourth degree crime and/or disorderly persons offense.
Legal immigrants and legal residents can reach out to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for assistance with immigration papers. Those seeking legitimate immigration services can find educational materials at the FTC’s website.
View RMS Services, Inc. Complaint
View RC Travel, LLC Complaint
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the Division of Consumer Affairs in this matter. Investigator Oscar Mejia of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.