Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced court actions against three Oregon businesses selling unlawful and incorrect immigration advice to recent immigrants to the United States. Named in three Assurances of Voluntary Compliance are Michael Shattuck of Hillsboro, doing business as Legal Services Center, Maria Lydia Ochoa of Salem, and Jorge Macias of Portland, owner of Legal Processing Center, LLC, also known as El Centro Paralegal, LPC.
"We are seeing an increase in unlawful immigration services as immigrants seek advice after reading headlines announcing amnesty talks between the governments of the United States and Mexico and new regulations concerning the 2000 federal immigration laws," Myers said. "We hope our actions against this type of unscrupulous activity alert immigrants to the possibility of being scammed."
Oregon law dictates that individuals and businesses providing immigration services must be attorneys or accredited representatives of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
The Oregon Department of Justice was first alerted to Shattuck's misleading advertising in August 2000 by Oregon's Mexican Consulate. Shattuck was "put on notice" of Oregon's laws pertaining to immigration services but chose to ignore the warning and proceeded to provide illegal advice to more than 220 clients.
Shattuck, also known as the Reverend Michael Shattuck, provided legal advice about consumers' rights and status under federal immigration law and authorized deceptive radio advertisements that misrepresented the qualifications necessary to obtain legal residency in the United States. Shattuck also persuaded consumers to file false petitions for amnesty.
Shattuck is not an attorney or authorized Board of Immigration Appeals representative, and none of his employees had expertise or authority to provide immigration or legal services.
Today's court action prohibits Shattuck from providing immigration-related services of any kind and provides for $20,000 in restitution for consumers. Shattuck paid the Department of Justice $1,000 for its Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Defendant Ochoa operates an interpreter/translation business in Salem and according to INS officials and numerous Oregon lawyers, she has for many years provided unlawful immigration advice to consumers. Ochoa is neither an attorney nor a BIA representative. Under her assurance, Ochoa is prevented from practicing law without a license by giving immigration advice. Ochoa must pay restitution to known victims.
Paralegal Jorge Macias owns and operates Legal Processing Center, LLC of Portland, providing immigration, divorce, bankruptcy and other services. Macias and his employees were found to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in immigration and divorce matters by providing legal advice and immigration forms.
Macias agreed to reimburse consumers requesting restitution and he paid $1,000 to the Department of Justice Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Attorney General Myers formed an immigration services fraud task force in 1998 consisting of representatives from community organizations, accredited immigration lawyers, and concerned political leaders and government. The Department of Justice has opened 25 investigations concerning illegal immigration services in the last four years.
Myers and members of the task force urge those seeking immigration advice to do the following;
Check for complaints by calling the Attorney General's consumer hotline (in Spanish and English).
Determine if the advice giver is an attorney that specializes in immigration law or an accredited representative of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Always ask to see the credentials.
Request an official notice of representation or a written retainer agreement.
Be sure to discuss any possible risks involved before submitting papers to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
For more information on immigration services fraud, consumers may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline (in Spanish and English) at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Online information is at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org