L.A. man ac­cused of pos­ing as im­mi­gra­tion lawyer

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Local - BY JANENE SCULLY Noozhawk.com

A Los An­ge­les County busi­ness­man has been ac­cused of pre­tend­ing to be an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney, il­le­gally pro­vid­ing ser­vices to farm­work­ers in Santa Maria while charg­ing them thou­sands of dol­lars.

The State Bar of Cal­i­for­nia an­nounced Fri­day that it had ob­tained an in­terim or­der to shut down an un­li­censed law prac­tice the agency says tar­geted and took ad­van­tage of im­mi­grant farm­work­ers on the Cen­tral Coast.

The Los An­ge­les County Su­pe­rior Court or­der as­sumed ju­ris­dic­tion of the unau­tho­rized law prac­tice, which al­lows the State Bar to shut it down and re­claim client files and other records of the of­fice of Vin­cent En­riquez.

En­riquez has been do­ing busi­ness as El Monte-based NVE As­so­ci­ates, Inc., but ap­par­ently so­licited clients dur­ing a Santa Maria visit.

The court or­der ob­tained by the State Bar also autho­rizes the agency to freeze any bank ac­count as­so­ci­ated with the of­fice, and in­cludes an in­junc­tion against En­riquez.

A Dec. 11 hear­ing has been set for the case in a Los An­ge­les County court­room.

“The State Bar ar­gues that En­riquez of­fered le­gal ser­vices to farm­work­ers on Cal­i­for­nia’s Cen­tral Coast, por­tray­ing him­self as an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney,” the agency said in a news re­lease.

“He was re­tained by sev­eral peo­ple in Santa Maria, en­sured them they qual­i­fied for green cards, and pro­vided le­gal ad­vice. Fol­low­ing this, he filed asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions that re­sulted in re­moval pro­ceed­ings be­ing ini­ti­ated against two of the clients.”

En­riquez fraud­u­lently charged more than $12,000 in le­gal fees in these two mat­ters, ac­cord­ing to the State Bar al­le­ga­tion.

The State Bar pre­vi­ously sent cease-and-de­sist no­tices to En­riquez, but un­der­took ad­di­tional en­force­ment mea­sures when he did not com­ply with the ini­tial warn­ings.

For­mer clients should con­tact the State Bar di­rectly at 213.765.1636 to in­quire whether any of the seized doc­u­ments or files be­long to them. Mul­tilin­gual in­ter­pre­ta­tion is avail­able.

The State Bar has a ded­i­cated unit to in­ves­ti­gate and ad­dress the unau­tho­rized prac­tice of law.

Con­sumers con­tact­ing im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tants should be aware that the law al­lows them to trans­late an­swers to ques­tions on state or fed­eral forms, ob­tain copies of sup­port­ing doc­u­ments and re­fer their clients to le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

The use of the term no­tario is pro­hib­ited in Cal­i­for­nia. Im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tants can’t rep­re­sent clients in court or pro­vide spe­cific le­gal ad­vice.

If they do, they could be pros­e­cuted for the unau­tho­rized prac­tice of law.

Peo­ple who have been tar­geted by some­one who is un­li­censed can file an unau­tho­rized prac­tice of law com­plaint with the State Bar against a non-at­tor­ney.

There is no cost to file a com­plaint. U.S. cit­i­zen­ship is not re­quired to file a com­plaint and the State Bar will not ask about cit­i­zen­ship or im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The State Bar ad­vises any­one in Cal­i­for­nia to avoid fraud by tak­ing some of the fol­low­ing steps:

Ask for the at­tor­ney’s full name and State Bar num­ber. Be­fore hir­ing the at­tor­ney or pay­ing any sum of money, look up the at­tor­ney on the State Bar web­site or the state in which they are li­censed, to see if their li­cense is ac­tive and whether they have any his­tory of dis­ci­pline. Con­sumers can also call the State Bar at 800-843-9053.

Check to con­firm an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing you in im­mi­gra­tion mat­ters is li­censed to prac­tice be­fore the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice of Im­mi­gra­tion Re­view.

Make sure to get a writ­ten con­tract as well as re­ceipts for pay­ments.

Be wary if some­one re­quires cash pay­ments and be sure to get a writ­ten re­ceipt.

Also be wary of those who threaten to re­port your im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus if you do not pay them im­me­di­ately.

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