Attorney scams claiming to offer immigration "SERVICES" are popping up all over the country. The problem is the immigrants just do not understand the system.
AG FERGUSON FILES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST PIERCE COUNTY INDIVIDUALS Edwin Cruz-Perez and Maurice Terry FOR REPEATEDLY DEFRAUDING IMMIGRANTS
Edwin Cruz-Perez and Maurice Terry repeatedly violated two court orders
TACOMA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed criminal charges against Edwin Cruz-Perez and Maurice Terry for repeatedly violating previous orders to stop providing unqualified immigration services to Washington consumers.
Immigration services fraud is illegal under Washington state’s Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act (ISFPA). The law protects consumers from unauthorized entities that peddle assistance completing immigration forms and navigating immigration processes that legally can only be provided by qualified attorneys and representatives authorized under federal law.
After an Attorney General investigation in 2011, Cruz and Terry entered into a consent decree in which they agreed to stop providing unqualified assistance to Washingtonians in immigration matters. A judge found that they violated the decree in 2016 and barred the two from providing immigration services in any capacity. Despite that court order, AGO investigators found that Cruz and Terry continued to provide immigration services without being qualified to do so from July 2016 through June 2017.
Ferguson today filed criminal charges in Pierce County District Court, alleging that Cruz and Terry committed one count of contempt. In addition, Cruz has been charged with three counts of prohibited practices, while Terry has been charged with one count. Each count is a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, the two could face up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $5,000 per count.
The charges are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
“Providing false or inaccurate information can ruin lives and force families apart,” said Ferguson. “Cracking down on those who defraud immigrants is a focus of my office.”
Cruz and Terry presented themselves as “immigration consultants” with their companies, EC New Horizons and EC Horizons. Neither are, nor ever have been, attorneys in Washington or accredited to assist Washingtonians in immigration matters.
The Attorney General’s Office began investigating EC Horizons and EC New Horizons in 2011. Over a three-year period, the two had entered into 480 separate agreements to provide legal advice and prepare documents in immigration matters. The two entered into a consent decree with the Attorney General’s Office in 2011, which barred them from providing a wide range of immigration services and imposed $8,000 in penalties and fees.
A private lawsuit against Cruz and Terry in 2014 revealed that they had not stopped providing immigration services to Washington consumers, in violation of the 2011 consent decree with the Attorney General’s Office.
As a result of violating the consent decree, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan permanently barred them from providing any immigration assistance, even if working for another company. The judge also required Cruz and Terry to pay $356,449 in civil penalties, restitution and attorney’s costs and fees. To this day, they have not made any payments.
After that judgment, Cruz and Terry continued to provide immigration services to Washingtonians, in violation of Washington state law and the consent decree.
The Attorney General’s investigators interviewed several Washington residents who state that they received services from Cruz and/or Terry in 2016 and 2017. All of them stated that the two helped them apply for immigration visas, residency or citizenship.
Investigators also reviewed the email account Terry used for communicating with customers. His account contained dozens of emails to clients that Terry worked with after the judgment in 2016 barring him and Cruz from assisting in immigration matters. The emails revealed other instances where Terry responded to federal agencies, including the National Visa Center, as he prepared immigration documents for clients.
Assistant Attorneys General Tienney Milnor and Kyle Wood are lead attorneys in the case.
File a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office
The ISFPA was signed into law in 2011 at the request of Attorney General Rob McKenna. Ferguson also has made combatting illegal immigration services a priority. In addition to cases like this, Ferguson has cracked down on “notario” fraud.
“Notario” fraud includes unlicensed immigration “consultants” who are notaries public in the U.S. These scammers prey on immigrant clients by referring to themselves as “notarios” or “notarios públicos,” terms that refer to attorneys or individuals with advanced legal training in Latin American countries.
Victims often do not report immigration services fraud because they are afraid to come forward. Washington’s consumer protection laws protect everyone who lives in our state. The Attorney General’s Office is here to help all consumers. The Attorney General’s website includes tips on how to avoid immigration services fraud.
The office is not part of the federal government and does not turn over information to immigration authorities. If you believe you have been a victim of immigration services fraud, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
The Attorney General’s Office can take calls in multiple languages.
To file a complaint in Spanish, visit www.atg.wa.gov/filing-complaint-spanish.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: AGs Office Of the State of Washington