The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued Notices of Violation against four Passaic County businesses that allegedly defrauded consumers by offering immigration assistance services that they are not legally permitted to provide.
The businesses cited are known as “Notarios Publicos” and such companies often use cultural confusion to exploit Spanish-speaking consumers in connection with the services they offer.
In certain Latin American countries, 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.
“These businesses allegedly misled consumers into believing that they could provide immigration assistance when they were not permitted to by law,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
“These businesses ultimately may have hurt those looking for immigration services by delaying their access to legitimate immigration assistance.”
Each of the following businesses this week received a Notice of Violation carrying a $10,000 civil penalty:
Universal Tax & Travl [sic] Services Corporation: 208 Washington Place, Passaic, 07055
SGI Professional Services Corporation:
570 Clifton Avenue, Clifton, 07011
Detex Corp., d/b/a “Navarro Tax Services”: 93 Market Street, Paterson, 07505
Martinez Travel Group:
96 Market Street, Paterson, 07505
Lee also noted that the firms often offered their services for between $600 to $1,000 per client.
Some Notarios Publicos have falsely claimed that they can assist clients in obtaining immigration documents such as green cards or work visas, and claim that they function as immigration consultants.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) notes that Notarios Publicos cannot provide legal advice concerning immigration issues or prepare legal documents on behalf of clients, although many falsely claim they can do so. 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.
To help consumers avoid such scams, and for help in obtaining legitimate assistance, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs advises consumers of the following:
Only attorneys and certain other accredited representatives authorized by the USCIS are allowed 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 visitwww.USCIS.gov/immigrationpractice or call the 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.
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.
To report immigration scams, call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or at 973-504-6200.