WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that he has settled a lawsuit against Unlimited Technology and Solution Corporation (UTS) and its owner, Mardoqueo M. Sanchez, for engaging in unlawful immigrant-consultant services. The $250,000 settlement in this so-called notario fraud case will provide restitution to consumers in immigrant communities, as well as civil penalties to the District.
Under the settlement, UTS and Sanchez are required to return the fees they collected from consumers for immigration services, which will amount to at least $100,000. The settlement requires UTS and Sanchez to cooperate with a claims procedure that will be conducted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to identify all of the consumers who are entitled to receive restitution under the settlement. The settlement also requires UTS and Sanchez to pay the District $150,000 in civil penalties, half of which the District agreed to waive provided that UTS and Sanchez comply with the requirements of their settlement.
“This kind of notario fraud tends to go unreported because immigrants in the District of Columbia may be afraid to come forward, especially in the current political climate,” said Attorney General Racine. “I want all D.C. residents, including undocumented immigrants, to know that OAG is here to protect all consumers, and we will bring to justice anyone who unlawfully targets immigrants or any other District resident.”
In a lawsuit filed in March, 2016, Attorney General Racine alleged that UTS and Sanchez targeted Spanish-speaking communities in the District and offered them unlawful immigrant-consultant services. Despite having no licensed attorneys on staff, UTS advertised that it employed lawyers who could assist in immigration matters, including obtaining and preparing immigration forms for a fee. This practice is commonly referred to as “notario fraud,” after the Spanish word notario, which in many Latin American countries denotes a lawyer or person qualified to provide legal services.
UTS and Sanchez harmed consumers when he gave them incorrect legal advice and failed to properly perform the offered immigration services. Under federal law and the District’s recently enacted notario fraud law, persons who provide immigration consultant services cannot assist consumers with obtaining, preparing or filing immigration forms unless they are licensed attorneys. Attorney General Racine, along with partners in the District government and the community, drafted and introduced the District’s new notario fraud law.
Other Terms of the UTS Settlement
Since April 15, 2016, UTS and Sanchez have been subject to a preliminary injunction that ordered them to stop from further harming consumers while the matter was pending. Today’s settlement makes that injunction permanent so that:
- UTS and Sanchez cannot use any terms in any marketing materials to consumers that suggest they or their employees are attorneys, including the terms “Lic.,” “licenciado,” “esquire,” “attorney,” or “abogado.”
- UTS and Sanchez are barred from using the term “notario publico” or “notary public,” unless Sanchez holds a valid notary public certification and clearly and conspicuously includes a statement on all marketing material stating that UTS and Sanchez are not attorneys and cannot provide legal services.
- Sanchez shall not provide immigration services unless he does it under the supervision of an attorney and follows other requirements under the Consent Judgment and Order.
“I want to express my deep gratitude to all of our staff and partners who helped ensure we successfully brought this case,” Attorney General Racine said. “In particular, I want to thank to Anne Schaufele from AYUDA, who assisted the District in identifying immigrants harmed in this case, as well as Assistant Attorney General Richard Rodriguez and Office of Consumer Protection Director Phil Ziperman for their excellent legal work in bringing and pursuing this lawsuit.”
A copy of the settlement is attached.
Consumers who have been victimized by immigration services fraud or who have questions, please contact the OAG Office of Consumer Protection at (202) 442-9892, by e-mailing [email protected], or by filing a complaint via our web form.