Attorney General Schwalb Announces Permanent Shutdown of Recruitment Firm That Exploited Foreign Exchange Teachers

Settlement Holds Accountable Owner of Company that Misled and Overcharged Teachers; 60+ DC School Teachers Will Receive Restitution

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today announced the successful resolution of a lawsuit against Earl Francisco Lopez and several teacher recruitment companies he operated—including Bilingual Teacher Exchange (BTE)—for preying upon dozens of foreign exchange program teachers by lying about his affiliation with the US State Department. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) sued Lopez, alleging that he falsely claimed to be an official visa sponsor with the power to get teachers fired and deported, charged improperly high fees, and failed to provide promised services.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement, Lopez will be permanently barred from operating a teacher recruitment business and will be required to pay monetary penalties to DC for five years. Additionally, 61 teachers who came to DC from other countries and were exploited, threatened, and overcharged by Lopez will receive restitution payments.

“The Office of the Attorney General is committed to standing up for all District residents and ensuring no one is exploited—including members of our diverse immigrant community,” said AG Schwalb. “In this case, hardworking teachers came to the District as part of a cultural and educational exchange, committing themselves to enriching the lives of thousands of DC students while navigating complicated visa requirements. Instead of providing these educators with the help and support he promised, Mr. Lopez took advantage of them, overcharging them for services and threatening retribution if they complained. As a result of this investigation, litigation and settlement, over 60 teachers will receive restitution, and Mr. Lopez will be prevented from causing similar harms in the future.”

“Being trapped in an elaborate scam—and discovering that you’ve fallen victim to labor trafficking—is gut-wrenching and shakes you to your core,” said Dulce Maria Nuñez Zaldivar, a middle school teacher who is originally from Honduras. “When I learned that Mr. Lopez had manipulated and exploited me and so many others for his own gain, the fear was suffocating. I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare with no escape. In the midst of this darkness, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of the DC Office of the Attorney General. They extended a hand of compassion and support to immigrant teachers like me, helped ensure our safety, and instilled within us a glimmer of hope that we were not alone in our fight for justice. Their tireless work on this case serves as a powerful reminder that compassion and justice can prevail, even in the darkest of times.”

“Coming to USA to work as a teacher was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a person like me,” said Campo Elias Gutierrez Lara, an elementary school teacher originally from Colombia. “I found out about a company that was offering guidance and visas and I went through a very exhaustive process to apply for a job in Washington, DC as a Spanish teacher. I was told that I would have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees every month for three years. After two years, I and other teachers realized something was not right with this situation. The lawyers who work at the DC Attorney General’s Office listened to us from the very beginning, investigated, and fought for us in court. It is good to know that this case is finally over and there is a positive result, and I am happy that other teachers who come to DC from around the world will not go through what we did.”

Through multiple DC-based companies—including Bilingual Teacher Exchange, Ives Hall Consulting, Inc., and Bert Corona Leadership Institute, Inc.—Earl Francisco Lopez recruited experienced teachers from other countries who wanted to teach in the US through a three-year US State Department exchange program. Lopez recruited more than 60 teachers from overseas to work in DC area schools, including DC Public Schools and DC Public Charter Schools. Many of these teachers came from Colombia.

OAG opened an investigation after receiving multiple complaints from teachers and soon filed suit, alleging that Lopez and his companies violated multiple DC laws by misleading teachers into signing unfair contacts and charging improper fees. In its lawsuit, OAG detailed how Lopez misled teachers by falsely claiming his companies were official visa sponsors—when they were actually third-party recruiters—and charged significantly higher fees than legitimate sponsor companies. Lopez also falsely claimed that teachers could only work in DC schools if they signed contracts with his companies; threatened teachers with firing and deportation if they failed to make monthly payments for visa services or did not want to renew their contracts; charged excessive and unlawful late fees; and failed to provide training, professional development, and other in-country support for which teachers had paid.

Based on evidence and arguments advanced by OAG, the DC Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction, which restrained Lopez and his companies from making misrepresentations, collecting payment from harmed teachers, and collecting excessive and illegal late fees while the case was pending.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Lopez is required to:

  • Permanently refrain from claiming to be able to help anyone with visas or employment in the US. Lopez will be permanently barred from recruiting teachers from overseas to come to the US and from claiming he can help anyone in the US with visas or employment in the US, unless the US State Department specifically authorizes him to be an official visa sponsor. 
  • Pay $1 million if he violates any term of the settlement agreement. If Lopez fails to make required payments, falsifies financial disclosures, violates DC’s consumer protection, wage theft, or nonprofit laws, or violates any other term of the settlement agreement, he will be required to pay the full $1,000,000 judgment. 
  • Make income-based financial payments to the District.  Based on his demonstrated financial inability to pay, Lopez will be required to pay a minimum of $30,000. In addition, Lopez is required to submit annual financial disclosures for five years, and if his income rises, he will be required to pay half his gross income over $30,000, capped at $1,000,000 in total penalties. 
  • Submit to OAG monitoring of all business activities for five years. If Lopez conducts any business in DC for the next five years, he must submit all of his contracts and agreements with consumers to OAG for review and must submit annual reports detailing all fees and charges paid by consumers each year.
  • Permanently refrain from attempting to collect any payments from teachers he recruited through his businesses, and from bringing any defamation or libel actions against teachers based on the teachers’ public statements about his businesses.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available here.

Additionally, more than 60 DC-area foreign exchange teachers who were misled and overcharged by Lopez and his companies will receive restitution payments. OAG will share more information with eligible teachers in the coming weeks.

This matter was handled by Senior Assistant Attorney General Wendy Weinberg, Assistant Attorney General

Jorge Bonilla Lopez, Deputy Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Kevin Vermillion, and Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Adam Teitelbaum.

How to Report Unfair Business Practices
OAG protects DC residents from fraud, exploitation, and deceptive business practices by investigating and mediating consumer complaints, educating residents about their rights, and taking legal action against businesses and individuals that harm residents and break the law. Since January 2023, OAG has obtained nearly $50 million through enforcement actions and settlements on behalf of DC consumers. 

To report scams, fraud, or unfair business practices, contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection: