A family who hired an immigration lawyer to change their immigration status was nearly deported when the lawyer they hired turned out to be a fake.
Alejandra Manzo told Telemundo 20 that she was the victim of fraud. In 2017, she traveled from Rosarito, Baja California with her three children and her husband to start a new life in the United States. The family crossed over on tourist visas and decided to naturalize through their American father who was also a veteran.
“My husband worked and lived in San Diego. What we wanted was to be united and he didn’t cross every day, and we came [to San Diego]We liked it and we decided to stay,” says Manzo.
They then hired a lawyer to start the process, until they received bad news.
“They [USCIS] sent me a letter saying that I had to leave the United States in 30 days because the paperwork had not been completed correctly. And the attorney hadn’t sent the Form I-485, so he hadn’t done anything,” Manzo said.
A nightmare for any immigrant, who puts his trust, his money and his life in the hands of immigration lawyers.
“We were out of money, and what we did to start over was sell our property in Mexico, in Rosarito,” Manzo said.
With no money, with a deportation order for her and her children, Manzo confronted the scammer.
“I said to him, ‘You’re not a lawyer,’ and he said to me, ‘I didn’t tell you I was a lawyer,'” she said.
He didn’t want to return the money either. According to Esther Valdes, an immigration lawyer, the applications were billed thousands of dollars, “over $9,000”.
After investigating, Manzo found another lawyer named Esther Valdés, and they pursued her case and denounced the previous one filed.
“Immediately what is done in this type of case, which is immigration fraud, is to contact the state bar,” Valdes said. “It turns out that this person’s name does not appear in the records of the California attorney group.”
“He wasn’t a lawyer, he wasn’t a notary, he was nothing,” Manzo says.
“This person was just making money, not being able to give the job, the advice and the lack of representation,” adds Valdés.
According to Manzo, ICE approached the family to tell them that they had already identified the lawyer as a suspected fraudster “the officer told him that they had detected Marcelo, they had pictures of him and that he had touched several families and one family who had children with disabilities.”
“We also went to the Fraud Investigation Unit with UCIS, who quickly launched an investigation, and we were able to receive a refund,” adds Manzo.
Finally, after 3 years of legal disputes and fear of deportation, Manzo and his children showed up in immigration court with legal representation.
“During the interview, the officer is very friendly and gave us all residence,” she said.
It’s a happy ending, but with many setbacks, fears and unnecessary expense.
If you hire an immigration attorney, you can search for their name on Calbar.ca.gov.
This story was originally reported by NBC 7’s sister station, Telemundo 20. To read the article, click here.