Attorney General Hardy Myers and Director of the State Board of Tax Service Examiners (BTSE) Pamela Konstantopoulos today announced that a Gresham company providing accounting, tax and immigration services must cease doing business until state licensing laws are met. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Multnomah County Circuit Court is Vidal Santiesteban and his Oregon business, Arevalo's & Associates.
"Hundreds of Oregonians, many in the Latino community, placed their trust with and gave money to a service that did not have the legal authority to assist them," Myers said. "A minimum of 800 consumers in the Portland area paid for personal income tax returns or immigration services that may not have been correctly prepared."
Santiesteban, whose company Arevalo's & Associates focused on providing tax and immigration services to the Portland-area Latino community, was fined $l,000 in July, 1998 by BTSE for operating without a license. BTSE reduced the fine when Santiesteban pledged to become licensed and not to operate illegally.
Department of Justice and BTSE investigators subsequently determined that the defendant ignored the order and, without being licensed, prepared approximately 882 personal income tax returns between August 1998 and March 2000. The investigation also revealed that the Arevalo's & Associates regularly provided immigration services without authority from the Board of Immigration Appeals.
"Oregonians must protect themselves by always making sure their tax preparer is licensed by the Board of Tax Service Examiners," Konstantopoulos said. "The Board protects consumers by ensuring Oregon tax professionals are competent and ethical in their professional activities."
"Members of the Latino community need to research individuals and companies for assistance with immigration problems," Myers said. "Only licensed attorneys and representatives of organizations recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals may lawfully provide these services."
Under the terms of the assurance, which admits no law violation, Santiesteban agrees to provide full restitution upon request by consumers who paid for personal income tax or immigration services. The agreement includes a permanent injunction against the defendant from preparing tax returns or giving immigration advice unless licensed and authorized by law. Santiesteban paid $2,100 to the Department of Justice and BTSE.
Consumers who want information about the license status of an individual who provides personal income tax services or customers with complaints about the preparation of their tax returns may call BTSE at (503) 378-4034.
Consumers who need to find an immigration lawyer may call the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (503) 684-3763 and victims of an immigration law practioner should contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll free at 1-877-877-9392 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Spanish-speaking staff also is available to assist callers during those hours.
Immigration fraud brochures published in six languages including English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese and Serbo-Croatian are available by writing Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection, 1162 Court Street, N.E., Salem, OR 97310. Information is online at www.doj.state.or.us and www.open.org\ortaxbrd.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela Konstantopoulos, (503) 378-4034