Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 04071268 (posted Jul. 12, 2004)"
Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Attorney General Abbott Wins Judgement Against Woman Who Defrauded South Texas Immigrants Permanently shuts down fraudulent immigration consulting agency operated by Martha Uresti
AUSTIN - Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced that he has successfully shut down a long-running scam that defrauded numerous immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley and obtained a court judgement of nearly $200,000 in penalties.
Martha Uresti, who operated Brownsville-based Uresti Immigration/Notary Services, was ordered by a Cameron County State District Court to pay fines and attorneys' fees for illegally representing herself as a lawyer who could help consumers process immigration cases before federal authorities. Criminal charges remain pending.
"This is another victory in our mission to rid Texas of unscrupulous individuals and businesses who attempt to amass fortunes on the backs of hardworking immigrants," said Attorney General Abbott. "Scam artists like Ms. Uresti exploit the dreams millions have for a better life in America, charging thousands of dollars and providing little or nothing in return."
Uresti sometimes charged in excess of $3,000 to individual families, promising that she would obtain immigration benefits for them, including work permits and permanent residency. Often, she did little or no work to move a client's case forward.
As part of her scheme, Uresti obtained a notary public commission from the Texas Secretary of State and then used it to present herself to Spanish-speaking clients as a "notario público" - a title used in Latin America for a highly experienced attorney and a misrepresentation specifically forbidden by Texas law. Though the Spanish and English terms are similar sounding, notaries in Texas can provide immigration services only if they hold a separate license to practice law. Uresti does not have such a license.
Attorney General Abbott filed a civil complaint against Uresti in February and provided the Cameron County District Attorney information on her activities. Subsequently, she was arrested by the Department of Public Safety in February of this year; she was released on bond and her criminal case remains pending.
To apply for immigration benefits, or to obtain a list of immigration attorneys and nonprofit organizations that can legitimately assist immigrants, consumers should contact their local offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or go online at www.uscis.gov.
Consumers who believe that they have been the victims of a scam related to immigration services should contact the Attorney General's office at 1-800-252-8011.