The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued fines for 28 businesses across the state, nine of them in Hudson County, for fraudulently offering immigration services.Â
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The notices of violation, which seek a total of $326,000 in civil penalties, follow a months-long undercover operation, carried out by the Divisionâ€™s Office of Consumer Protection, authorities said.
Acting on tips, consumer complaints, and investigative information, investigators visited notary publics, tax preparers, travel agencies, and other businesses suspected of selling immigration assistance services that they cannot legally offer, in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and/or the advertising regulations.
Some of the businesses receiving the notices of violation were quoting fees in excess of $1,500 to provide immigration services that, by law, may be rendered only by attorneys or by representatives accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice and working for DOJ-recognized organizations, officials said.
These recognized organizations generally offer their services for free or for only a nominal fee.
â€œToday we are reinforcing our commitment to protecting all New Jersey residents, regardless of their legal status, from financial predators,â€ said Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs Paul RodrÃguez.
â€œAll New Jersey residents who fall victim to fraud or other unlawful conduct should know that they can safely report the matter to law enforcement. We are here for you.â€
The DCAâ€™s investigation of businesses unlawfully selling immigration services aims to deter so-called â€œnotarioâ€ fraud, in which a notary public takes advantage of Spanish-speaking consumers who believe that they are securing the services of an attorney or someone with special knowledge of immigration law and procedure.
In certain Latin American countries, â€œnotariosâ€ are attorneys and can prepare legal documents on behalf of clients, and provide legal advice. In the United States, notaries cannot legally offer or perform these services.
In the United States immigration context, so-called â€œNotariosâ€ who pretend that they are authorized to file immigration forms often leave their victims facing financial losses, the loss of irreplaceable documents such as birth certificates or passports, and possible detention and/or deportation, the DCA said.
Some unauthorized practitioners are predators looking for victims to scam. They charge excessive fees or take money for services they have no intention of performing. In other cases, well-meaning unauthorized practitioners can make mistakes, like filing incorrect or incomplete forms or missing a deadline.
â€œRegardless of their motives, businesses that unlawfully sell immigration services deprive consumers of competent legal assistance,â€ RodrÃguez added.
â€œAt a time when immigrant communities feel threatened, it is more important than ever that we prevent unauthorized and unqualified practitioners from exposing individuals to heightened risk of deportation and loss of their legal rights.â€
The businesses receiving the Notices of Violation face civil penalties ranging from $6,000 to $16,000.Â In some instances, persons associated with the businesses are also subject to civil penalties.
The Hudson County businesses in question are as follows:
â€¢ A.A.N. Accounting & Multi-Service LLC – Kearny
â€¢ Airsealand Tours, Inc. d/b/a Air Sea Land Travel & Tax d/b/a Air Sea Land Group – Kearny
â€¢ Dieugrand Insurance Agency LLC – Jersey City
â€¢ IG Tax Multiservices LLC a/k/a IG Tax Multi Services LLC – North Bergen
â€¢ Miriam Caso d/b/a Bookkeeping & Tax Services L.L.C. – West New York
â€¢ MIA Services, LLC – Union City
â€¢ Nancy Tax Services – Union City
â€¢ SS Professional Services Corp. – Jersey City
â€¢ West Side Brokerage, Inc. – Jersey City