Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Immigration Fraud: Woman Impersonating An Immigration Attorney Sentenced To 10 Years State Prison

Following a guilty pleas last month to 8 counts of grand theft, on February 3, 2009, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy sentenced Romina Aida Zadorian to 10 years in state prison for charging more than 100 clients fees of $6,000 to $20,000 in exchange for promises of legal status. Zadorian was also ordered to pay $900,000 in restitution to victims she had defrauded.

According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and State Bar of California, from 2003 to 2008, Zadorian pretended to be an attorney for an immigration consulting business in Montebello (RZ Services, Inc.) and told clients that she could help them obtain residency, citizenship and work permits. Zadorian was not an attorney and was not a duly bonded immigration consultant. California law allows non-attorneys to provide certain immigration advice and services to clients if they properly follow the requirements.

One interesting aspect of this case was that in June 2008, the California State Bar in cooperation with other agencies shut down RZ Services, Inc. and seized its files. They also served a court order on several banks freezing RZ Services' accounts. Letters were sent to the clients informing them of the availability of their files at State Bar offices.

The shutdown took place after the State Bar obtained an interim order from the Superior Court assuming jurisdiction over Zadorian’s practice because of her unauthorized practice of law. The State Bar applied for this order under Business and Professions Code Section 6126.3, which became effective in January 2006. Assumption of a law practice by a Superior Court is based upon a court finding that a person has engaged in the practice of law without being an active member of the State Bar or otherwise authorized to practice in California and that the interest of a client or interested person or entity will be prejudiced if the court does not assume jurisdiction. Since the law was enacted, the State Bar has shut down over 15 illegal law practices.

Years ago, we represented a couple of "immigration consulting" companies where the State of California Attorney General's Office filed civil lawsuits and sought injunctions to make these companies comply with the law. Non-attorneys can work as immigration consultants but if they do not fully comply with the law, they can be accused of practicing law without a license and fraud. Zadorian's case appears to have had more elements of fraud in that it was alleged that she filed the clients' applications without the fees that were required and made guarantees and promises to induce them to pay large fees. The State Bar and prosecuting agencies take these types of cases seriously since they deal with a vulnerable and unsophisticated population -- illegal aliens or residents -- often non-English speaking who are desperate.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California.  They focus their practice on the representation of individuals, businesses and licensed professionals, including attorneys in civil, criminal and administrative cases and investigations.


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