PATERSON, N.J. -- Two Paterson businesses paid penalties to resolve allegations by state authorities that they targeted Spanish-speaking consumers in schemes that violated regulations involving the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Navarro Tax Services, of Paterson, didn't contest the allegations and agreed to pay $5,000 "to cease and desist from engaging in practices in violation of the CFA and the Advertising Regulations, including providing any immigration advice without participation in the Recognition & Accreditation Program with the USCIS," acting New Jersey Attorney General Robert Lougy.
Martinez Travel Agency, of Paterson and its owner Juan Luis Girao entered into a consent order and agreed to pay $10,000 -- and to no longer "mislead consumers into believing that the firm is qualified to prepare and file legal documents with the USCIS," Lougy said.
“We will not tolerate any business seeking to profit by taking advantage of the immigrant community,” the attorney general said.
The two were among four New Jersey businesses recently by the state Division of Consumer Affairs for violations of the Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and Advertising Regulations in connection with services offered to immigrants.
In certain Latin American countries, notaries -- known as “Notarios Publicos” -- may act as attorneys, prepare legal documents on behalf of clients, and provide legal advice, Lougy said. Public notaries in the U.S. cannot legally do that, however, he said.
Under federal law, only attorneys or accredited representatives of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have the authority to provide legal advice and/or complete immigration forms with the USCIS, the attorney general said.
“The Division will continue to vigorously investigate and penalize businesses that perpetrate Notarios Publicos fraud because their victims suffer more than just financial losses,” said Steve Lee, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Many victims can find themselves in legal trouble or face deportation after depending on the illegal and uninformed advice of a Notario Publico.”
Investigators Murat Botas, Oscar Mejia and Luis Zuniga, in the DCA's Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the investigations.
Deputy Attorneys General Alina Wells and Labinot Berlajolli, in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the staste.
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