In many Spanish-speaking countries, a notario is an attorney vested with special credentials, including the ability to represent individuals before the government. Many often confuse traditional notarios with U.S. notary public, those who are permitted to certify documents but aren't permitted to give legal advice. Perpetrators of notario fraud often take advantage of this confusion. Consequently, this has been an area ripe for fraud against immigrants originating from Mexico and Central America.
Notarios advertise legal assistance — especially with immigration paperwork — but then do not provide the advertised services. Victims are often left worse off by the loss of significant sums of money and, in some instances, the filing of false paperwork which exposes notario fraud victims to the possibility of deportation.
Notario fraud often increases in the wake of proposed immigration laws or new rules promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security. State attorneys general can help combat notario fraud through consumer outreach programs to educate the public, as well as by prosecuting notarios under state consumer protection statutes or immigration services fraud statutes and by issuing consumer alerts warning of potential scams.
Resources on Notario Fraud
- Notario Fraud Remedies, A Practical Manual for Immigration Practitioners, Georgetown Law School Community Justice Project (May 2013).
- Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers Task Force, Protecting Against Immigration Fraud (January 2016) (The Task Force members include the New York Attorney General's Office, various New York City government agencies, the Federal Trade Commission, local branches of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, local district attorneys offices, and advocacy organizations such as Make the Road New York and Catholic Charities Community Services).
- Federal Trade Commission, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants webpage (last visited Dec. 12, 2016).
- American Bar Association, Fight Notario Fraud Attorney Resources webpage (last visited Nov. 23, 2016).
Examples of Immigration Fraud Cases
- FTC -
- Press Release, Federal Trade Commission, FTC Combats Immigration Services Scams (June 9, 2011).
- Arizona -
- Press Release, Arizona Attorney General's Office, Adkisson Pleads Guilty for Defrauding Immigrants, (April 28, 2004).
- California -
- Press Release, State of California Department of Justice, Attorney General Lockyer Files Lawsuits Against Unregistered "Immigration Consultants," (January 10, 2003).
- New Mexico -
- Press Release, New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, Immigration Consultants on AG's Radar...Cease and Desist: Violation Results in a 2nd Lawsuit, (June 1, 2011).
- New York -
- Press Release, New York Office of the Attorney General, A.G. Schneiderman Announces $2.2 Million Restitution Fund For Victims Of Immigration Scam, (July 21, 2014).
- Press Release, New York Office of the Attorney General, A.G. Schneiderman Secures Landmark Agreement That Permanently Shuts Down Two Of The Nation’s Largest Immigration Services Organizations For Defrauding Immigrants, (May 21, 2013).
- Texas -
- Press Release, Texas Attorney General's Office, Attorney General's Office Shuts Down Fraudulent Notarios and Unauthorized Immigration Consultants in South Texas, (May 29, 2013).
- Washington -
- Liz Jones, Washington Attorney General Cracks Down on Immigration Scams, KUOW.org (August 19, 2015).