Immigration consultants to pay $400k to settle fraud claim

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced on Wednesday that his office has reached a settlement with an immigration consulting firm accused of offering bogus legal services to clients and taking thousands of dollars from them.

CORRECTION The original headline for this story incorrectly described Lacayo and Associates as immigration lawyers, which they are not. SFBay regrets the error.

Principals Leonard Lacayo and Ada Lacayo of Lacayo & Associates have agreed to pay $400,000, which will be evenly split by victims of the firm and civil penalties to cover the fees of the City Attorney’s investigation and enforcement costs.

Herrera said in a statement:

“The Lacayos enriched themselves for decades by victimizing the vulnerable.”

He added:

“They not only defrauded their victims, they jeopardized their immigration cases. These victims thought they were doing what the law requires. Instead, the Lacayos’ incompetent or nonexistent work squandered legitimate opportunities for these victims to obtain legal residency. It is appalling the level of risk the Lacayos placed clients in by charging excessive fees for work they could not perform.”

The City Attorney’s Office also filed an injunction on Wednesday that requires the Lacayos to close any immigration-related services at its firm, removing any immigration-related services on social media and advertising and posting a sign outside of their office in both English and Spanish that they are not attorneys.

Herrera first filed the lawsuit last year in August when clients reported that they paid the firm thousands of dollars to prepare immigration paperwork, but found out that the paperwork was never submitted, or the paperwork was denied because of inadequate preparation.

The Lacayos have 120 days to make the payment to the City Attorney’s Office. Once the payment is made, the office will begin the restitution process.