EL PASO (KYTX)– Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged the owners of four El Paso firms with violating multiple provisions of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the Texas Government Code. According to the State's enforcement actions, the defendants provided immigration and other legal services to their clients despite not being licensed as attorneys.
Each of the State's four legal actions, which were filed separately in El Paso state district court, is seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against the following five defendants:
- Maria Duria Chavelas, doing business as International Legal Services-Abogados
- Sarah Beth and Peter Hernandez, doing business as Tiny's Para-Legal Services
- Jeffrey Smith, doing business as Jeff Smith Agency
- Jorge A. Zamarripa, doing business as Unidad Immigrant Advocacy Center.
In the case against Tiny's Para-Legal Services, Sarah Beth and Peter Hernandez, the State obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent them from continuing to provide unlawful services. According to court documents, the Hernandezes charged clients hundreds of dollars to prepare legal documents in uncontested matters, including divorce filings, deed transfers, child support modifications and immigration proceedings – despite not being authorized to provide such legal services.
All four of the State's enforcement actions charge the respective defendants with unlawfully offering immigration-related services despite the fact that they lacked the legal authority to do so. Under federal law, only licensed attorneys and organizations accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals may offer immigration consulting services.
The State's enforcement actions each seek civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the DTPA.
The four cases filed today are part of the Office of the Attorney General's month-long crackdown on immigration scams in El Paso County. Former or current clients of a suspected unauthorized legal services scam should file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office at (800) 252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.