San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera blasted the lawsuit by backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying: “Every violation alleged in this federal lawsuit—literally every single one of them—is factually inaccurate.”

Herrera secures $400,000 settlement with fraudulent immigration consulting service

After defrauding clients for decades, Lacayo & Associates will pay $200,000 in restitution to victims and shut down immigration services

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera blasted the lawsuit by backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying: “Every violation alleged in this federal lawsuit—literally every single one of them—is factually inaccurate.”

SAN FRANCISCO (Sep. 6, 2017) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today that he had reached a settlement agreement in his lawsuit against Lacayo & Associates, a predatory immigration consulting business that charged for sham legal services that it was not competent to provide while robbing clients of thousands of dollars.

Under the terms of the signed settlement agreement, principals Leonard Lacayo and Ada Lacayo will pay a total of $400,000. The money will be evenly split between restitution to the victims and civil penalties to cover a portion of the City Attorney’s investigation and enforcement costs. The payment is secured by a deed of trust on the Lacayos’ San Francisco home.

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

“I’m grateful that we are able to conclude this case with a measure of justice and prevent other immigrants from becoming victims of the Lacayos’ incompetent and illegal services,” Herrera said. “I also hope this serves as a strong warning to anyone even considering exploiting immigrants and other communities like the Lacayos did. We will not tolerate this type of unlawful behavior. San Francisco will protect its immigrant communities, whether it’s from local con artists or the president’s unconstitutional orders. No one is above the law.”

The stipulated injunction submitted to San Francisco Superior Court today requires the Lacayos to shut down any immigration-related services at Lacayo & Associates, remove references to immigration-related services from all social media and advertising, post a sign in both Spanish and English in the office stating they are not attorneys, and return all original documents to former clients if requested.  In addition, the City Attorney’s Office will have access to inspect Lacayo & Associates’ records upon request to determine compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Herrera first filed his litigation against the defendants in August 2016 for defrauding clients with large fees for services they were neither qualified nor legally authorized to provide. For decades the defendants led clients to falsely believe Mr. Lacayo was an attorney who could provide legal services in their immigration cases. Instead, the defendants would take large fees from clients and perform little or no work — placing some clients at risk of deportation in the process.

Victims reported that after charging thousands of dollars in fees, Mr. Lacayo would fail to ever submit their applications, or would submit applications that were denied due to inadequate preparation. In many cases it was only when clients sought assistance elsewhere that they realized that Mr. Lacayo was not an attorney and learned the true status of their cases.

As part of the lawsuit, the City Attorney’s Office created a hotline number for victims of Lacayo’s practices to contact. Over the past year, approximately 170 calls were received.

“I am grateful for the numerous brave victims who came to our office and shared their experiences with Lacayo & Associates,” said Herrera. “Their courage allowed us to develop a compelling case, and we could not have reached such a strong settlement without their cooperation.”

The Lacayos have 120 days to make the payment, after which the City Attorney’s Office will begin the restitution process.

The case is: People of the State of California v. Leonard Lacayo et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC 15-553699, filed August 15, 2016.  Complete documentation on the case is available at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org/

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