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February 01, 2011

FTC Takes Action Against Notario Fraud

ABA President Stephen N. Zack applauded the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this month for filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Nevada against the alleged unauthorized practice of immigration law and notario fraud, which is becoming an increasingly serious problem within the immigrant communities throughout the United States.

 “The FTC’s action sends a strong signal that our country will not tolerate when those seeking legal help are, instead, being hurt,” Zack said after the FTC asked a federal judge to shut down an operation that duped consumers into paying fees they were told covered U.S. immigration services.

According to the FTC, the defendant, Immigration Center and Immigration Forms and Publications Inc., set up websites that mimicked the official government site of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and used the fake sites to steer immigrants to a deceptive marketing operation. The sites offered counseling and application forms and directed consumers to a toll-free number where they talked to individuals they believed worked for USCIS. The business charged processing fees ranging from $200 to $2,500 – the same fees charged by USCIS.

The judge froze the defendant’s assets and appointed a receiver to take over the business until the case is resolved in the district court.

The ABA strongly supports pursuing those involved in notario fraud, and the association’s FightNotarioFraud project, housed in the ABA Commission on Immigration, has three main goals in putting an end to immigration consulting fraud: providing attorneys with information on how to take action against notarios; providing a depository of pleadings and other forms that might be useful in reporting or pursuing a case against an immigration consultant; and facilitating the referral of victims of immigration consulting fraud to litigation and consumer protection attorneys interested in representing them pro bono in civil litigation against the fraudulent immigration consultants.

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