Indio, Calif. - An Indio man says he was ripped off while trying to get immigration papers for his wife.
Luis Muñoz claims he paid up to $1700 to Javier Ponce, who he thought was a lawyer. Ponce's business card actually identifies him as a computer repair expert.
Muñoz says he was recommended to Ponce by a friend but did not get a contract or any receipts for the work.
When Valley area attorney Rosa Elena Sahagun heard about the case, she said, "I immediately knew that there was something wrong." She said she tried to reach Ponce numerous times, leaving email and phone messages.
When those were not returned, Sahagun and Muñoz went to the door of his Indio home.
Sahagun asked Ponce if he was a lawyer and if he was registered as an immigration consultant with the state. To both questions, Ponce answered "no."
Sahagun is working to get documents belonging to Muñoz returned to him. She was able to obtain some of the paperwork but plans to return Monday for more.
She says fear in the immigrant community sometimes leads to silence when there are problems.
"The community has to come forward." Sahagun said. "When there are no crimes or no incidents of fraud reported, these people continue practicing and continue to take advantage of the community."
"The immigrant community works very hard under these harsh, harsh summer months in the Coachella Valley to save money, hoping to be able to legalize." Attorney Sahagun said. "We cannot allow people like Javier Ponce and others like him to take advantage of them."
If you are working with an immigration lawyer, experts say to confirm these things:
- Verify the attorney's bar number with the state
- Get a contract in writing
- Get printed receipts for all payments
KUNA Noticias 15: Fraude migratorio en el Valle de Coachella por supuesto abogado