Thursday, June 9, 2011
View Video of News Conference
|Attorney General's lawsuit against Estella Cofoid and her businesses|
|Attorney General's lawsuit against Manuella Aronce, Anna Mata and Aronce Center|
|Attorney General's lawsuit against Adrian Lara and his firm|
|Attorney General's lawsuit against Caridad Diaz and her firm|
In Dallas County, the Texas Attorney General’s Office charged Estella Saucedo Cofoid, Saucedo Systems Integration, LTD and Saucedo Latino Services with violating a state law that prohibits notaries public from unlawfully practicing immigration law. The Saucedo case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the FTC, which uncovered the defendant’s unauthorized immigration law practice. In that case, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking an injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing to improperly advertise Saucedo as a notario pblico and offer unauthorized legal services.
Under federal law, only licensed attorneys and organizations accredited by the DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may offer immigration consulting services. Although Saucedo and her firms provided immigration-related services, the defendant is neither BIA-accredited nor is she licensed to practice law. Texas law authorizes notaries public to witness the execution of legal documents but the Notary Public Act specifically forbids notaries from providing immigration-related legal services unless they are also licensed to practice law; failure to comply with this requirement is a violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Scam artists have long exploited the misunderstanding between the term notary and the similar-sounding Spanish term notario pblico, which is used in Latin America to describe highly experienced, specialized attorneys.
In Parmer County, the State filed an enforcement action against Manuella (Nellie) Castro Aronce, her daughter Anna Lucia Aronce Mata, and Aronce Center. The State also filed two enforcement actions in Hidalgo County. The first enforcement action charged Adrian Lara and his firm, A&B Consulting Services. A second legal action named Caridad Diaz and her firm, Notary Public Income Tax Service. All three enforcement actions charged the defendants with unlawfully offering immigration-related services despite the fact that they lacked the legal authority to do so.
The Attorney General’s enforcement actions today each seek civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).
Since assuming office in 2002, Attorney General Abbott has shut down more than 60 businesses for providing unauthorized legal services. Former or current clients of an unauthorized legal services scam should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
UPDATE: Below you will find final resolution of the cases contained in this news release.