Notario Fraud

Individuals who represent themselves as qualified to offer legal advice or services concerning immigration or other matters of law, who have no such qualification, routinely victimize members of immigration communities. Such representations can include false statements that:

  • The individual is an attorney, or abogado;
  • The individual is authorized to represent immigrants before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”), or before immigration courts;
  • The individual is qualified to assist in preparing a will, corporate document or other legal paperwork;
  • The individual is a legal assistant;
  • The individual has a court license; or
  • The individual is a notario publico.

Example of a Notario

While a “notario public,” or notary public, in many Latin American (and European) countries refers to an individual who has received the equivalent of a law license and who is authorized to represent others before the government, in the United States a “notario publico” is authorized only to witness the signature of forms.

Misrepresentations as to an individual’s qualification to offer legal advice can have severe implications for immigrants.  In many cases the work performed by such individuals results in:

  • missed deadlines,
  • the filing of incorrect or incomplete forms, or
  • the filing of false claims with the government.

As a result of the advice or actions of such individuals an immigrant can miss opportunities to obtain legal residency, can be unnecessarily deported, or can be subject to civil and/or criminal liability for the filing of false claims. In addition, immigrants often spend hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in payment for what they believe are the services of a licensed attorney and end up receiving nothing but lost savings.

Unfortunately, notario fraud is usually identified after the fact, when an immigrant has already suffered an adverse event as the result of a consultant’s services (e.g., a denial of temporary protective status, or a removal order), and seeks the assistance of a licensed immigration attorney.  Although there are specific procedures for reopening removal proceedings based on deficient performance of authorized counsel, many attorneys are unaware of what actions can be taken against consultants to hold them accountable and deter future abuses.