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California man accused of preying on migrant farmers

People looking for help on immigration services face the danger of notario fraud

Margarita Rocha, executive director at Centro La Familia in Fresno, explains how clients become victims when trying to get help from some notary services.
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Margarita Rocha, executive director at Centro La Familia in Fresno, explains how clients become victims when trying to get help from some notary services.

A California man is accused of posing as an immigration attorney and fraudulently charging Central Coast migrant workers more than $12,000 in legal fees.

The State Bar of California announced Friday that it obtained an interim order from the Los Angeles County Superior Court to shut down the practice of Vincent Enriquez.

“He was retained by several people in Santa Maria, ensured them they qualified for green cards and provided legal advice,” according to a statement from State Bar spokesman Jonah Lamb. “Following this, he filed asylum applications that resulted in removal proceedings being initiated against two of the clients.”

Enriquez allegedly continued to practice law without a license despite receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the State Bar. The State Bar is now reclaiming Enriquez’s client files and working to notify those clients “that it may be in their best interest to seek other legal counsel.”

Enriquez is set to appear in court on Dec. 11.

Anyone who used Enriquez’s services is encouraged to contact the State Bar at 213-765-1636, where multilingual interpretation is available.

Anyone who has been targeted by someone unlicensed to practice law may file a complaint with the State Bar at no cost, and U.S. citizenship is not required. The State Bar will not ask about citizenship or immigration status.

The State Bar urged anyone in need of immigration legal services to take the following steps to avoid being targeted by unlicensed law practitioners:

  • Ask for the attorney’s full name and State Bar number, both of which can be searched online.
  • Make sure they are licensed to practice before the Executive Office of Immigration Review.
  • Make sure to get your contract in writing, as well as receipts for payments made.
  • Be wary of attorneys demanding cash payments, and insist on getting a written receipt.
  • Also be wary of anyone who threatens to report your immigration status if you do not pay them immediately.
  • Keep a paper trail and use cashier’s checks if you do not have a bank account.
Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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