Fraudulent Immigration Consultants Punished in Texas
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently applauded a Dallas County district court for taking decisive action against the owner of Grupo ECSA, a Dallas-based operation accused of providing unauthorized legal advice on immigration matters to unsuspecting consumers. Attorney General Abbott filed a lawsuit in November 2004 against Fidelina Cuevas and Grupo ECSA under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. A temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction required Cuevas to take down a Web site promoting the business. When she failed to do so, State District Judge Jay Patterson imposed a $13,000 fine in December. After investigators with the Office of the Attorney General showed the Web site was still active, Patterson on Thursday found Cuevas in contempt of court and ordered her jailed for 179 days or until she proves she has taken down the Web site.
The lawsuit accused Grupo ECSA and Cuevas of defrauding immigrants and their families by misrepresenting themselves as authorized to provide legal services to persons seeking immigration status and benefits such as work permits or permanent residency. The company promoted its services through its Web site, and Cuevas appeared on paid Spanish-language radio to recruit business outside of Texas.
Since the lawsuit was filed, dozens of victims have reported that Cuevas failed to provide agreed-upon services after collecting thousands of dollars from each family. The defendant admitted during one of the recent court hearings that between 1999 and 2004 she earned at least $1.7 million as a result of the unauthorized activities. A January 21 hearing is scheduled on additional contempt motions filed by Attorney General Abbott against Cuevas for refusing to provide her former clients immediate access to their immigration petitions and other documents in her possession and for failing to account for the money she received from consumers. A trial in the lawsuit is scheduled for March.
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