FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, MD - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today ordered Baltimore-based Latin Service LLC, and the company's owners, Sinia B. Zelaya and Gelmin Arlis Portillo, to stop offering illegal immigration consultant services to Maryland consumers. Under Maryland's Immigration Consultant Act, persons who provide immigration consultant services cannot assist consumers with obtaining, preparing or filing immigration forms unless they are licensed attorneys. In many Latin American countries, such services are provided by "Notarios" or notary publics who are authorized to practice law. The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division charged Latin Service and its owners with falsely advertising that they were lawyers and "Notarios" who could assist in immigration matters, including obtaining and preparing immigration forms for a fee, when in fact Latin Service did not employ any licensed attorneys and, therefore, could not lawfully provide the immigration consultant services it offered consumers.
Attorney General Gansler urges consumers with immigration concerns to make sure they consult with qualified immigration consultants. "Consumers who place their future in the hands of someone who falsely claims to be an immigration lawyer can face devastating consequences," warned the Attorney General.
The Division's Cease and Desist Order required Latin Service and its owners to cease offering illegal immigration consultant services and to return the payments they received for the services to consumers. The Order also required the company and its owners to cease calling themselves "Notarios" unless they disclosed that that were not licensed attorneys and were not authorized to practice law.
The Division's action was filed in connection with a national, multi-agency initiative to combat immigration services scams that included the Maryland Attorney General's Office, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division and(EOIR), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a large number of other State Attorneys General, and various other state and local law enforcement agencies. The initiative will be announced today at 12:55pm in Baltimore, as part of a national announcement involving partners in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Fresno, Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, and Seattle.
In conjunction with its action against Latin Service, the Attorney General also announced that he is commencing a statewide campaign to educate Maryland consumers about immigration scams and point them to resources available to assist with immigration matters. The education and outreach program will include printed materials; an OAG webpage for consumers detailing immigration consulting services; a series of presentations to be made to community organizations throughout the State; and planned Public Service Announcements. Each of the pieces of the program will provide consumers with: information on who can and cannot provide immigration consulting services; a list of questions consumers should pose to those claiming to provide such services; information on how to file a complaint; and information on other resources available to them. The Attorney General's Office will partner with other community organizations in order to ensure the widest possible dissemination of this much needed information. Other resources for consumers with immigration concerns include the United States Citizenship and Immigration Center, which provides advice and immigration forms to consumers on line and over the telephone, as well as the Esperanza Center of Catholic Charities, the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, the Immigration Fraud Project of the American Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and CASA of Maryland.