Three people were convicted in an immigration fraud scheme that preyed on unsuspecting immigrants. Thomas Laurence, Thomas Strawbridge, and Elizabeth Meredith of Missouri were just sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison for the immigration scheme they had set up to intentionally defraud individuals.
None of the individuals are licensed in any way to practice law, yet they founded a company called Immigration Forms and Publications through which they offered legal advice and aid for immigrants with any immigration related issues. Unsuspecting customers thought the company was working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and individuals would come in asking for aid in complex immigration matters. Among the violations committed, the individuals led customers to believe that they were immigration agents affiliated with the government. They told customers that they handled the overflow calls from the immigration service. They also provided services without any sort of expertise in the area and charged customers “government fees” for forms that can be found for free online.
The scheme the three were convicted for has occurred in various different places nationwide as “notaries” and other non-lawyers are participating in unlicensed practice of immigration law and end up taking advantage of immigrants. Immigration law is a difficult and complex area in the U.S. which can lead to a lot of confusion for immigrants who do not speak nor read the language. The area itself, therefore, is filled with fraud and open to prey upon unsuspecting customers. In order to avoid falling for some of the schemes, which are very realistic and look like they are run by a licensed government agency, lawyers warn immigrants to find someone who is licensed. Each state bar has a database that can be searched to verify the lawyer’s license. When in doubt, it is best to verify in order not to lose large sums of money in a scheme that will cause more problems in the future.
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