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Intra-community crime puts immigration consultant in jail

World Money Laundering Report
Consumer fraud
Case Summary: 

Intra-community crime is a particular problem amongst migrant groups who trust those of a similar background who have already arrived and, seemingly, made some success in their chosen destination. All too often, unfortunately, the new arrivals fall into the hands of fraudsters and, even, organised crime gangs. In California, where Mexicans are a significant immigrant group, the pickings can be lucrative. But they don't always get away with it.

Case Facts: 

Oswaldo Rafael Cabrera ran a business called "the Coalición Latinoamericana Internacional" or CLI. That sounded very official but it was simply a vehicle by which Cabrera and his wife, Maria Marcelina Rodas, conspired to breach provisions of California's Immigration Consultants' Act and a variety of fraud and other offences. However, a press release from the federal Immigration Department (ICE) at the time of the initial arrests gives a much clearer picture of the offences.

The arrest warrant affidavit alleges Cabrera often posed as an attorney and provided legal consultations and services, charging up to USD9,000. Despite lacking accreditation or a licence to practice law, Cabrera posed as an immigration lawyer and expert with a proven record of helping immigrants on major media platforms in both mainstream and Spanish-language media. The defendant used his prominent profile to solicit customers, whom he then duped.

Cabrera repeatedly misled his victims about the status of their cases, misinformed them about their eligibility for immigration relief, and completed immigration forms improperly while continuing to collect victims’ money. Cabrera also ignored or lied to victims in an attempt to avoid giving refunds, sometimes for thousands of dollars, while denying any wrongdoing. In some instances, Cabrera’s handling of immigration cases had irreparable consequences, leading to the deportation of victims’ family members.

The arrest warrant affidavit also alleges Cabrera provided immigration consulting services without having completed the necessary registration with the California Secretary of State, and that he and his wife conspired to violate the Immigration Consultants Act.

“We must be vigilant against predators, including unscrupulous lawyers and immigration consultants, who take advantage of vulnerable undocumented immigrants, then often use scare tactics to prevent them from reporting these crimes,” said Attorney General Harris. “Mr. Cabrera’s deception cost dozens of immigrants their hard-earned savings and tore families apart. Scam artists who exploit immigrants trying to navigate a complex system must be held accountable.


Case Judgment: 

They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five and three years state jail, respectively.

The new California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra said the order "lets hard-working immigrant families know that our office has got their backs."

Case Commentary: 

By pleading guilty, the defendants avoided a lengthy exposure of the activities they had conducted. However, the earlier press release from ICA made the extent of their criminal conduct clear.

Intra-community crime is common and it is hidden, especially where the applicants' legal status is not clear.


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