According to the American Barr Association (ABA) "notorio fraud" is a widespread and prevalent problem in the US. A 2004 article in the Harvard Law Review reported that one out of five Latinos had used the services of a notorio for legal help, sometimes with disastrous results.
"Most of these notorios do not have the training required to assist with immigration applications, but they do it anyway," says attorney Dan O'Connor, a Washington D.C. lawyer who was recently asked to speak at the national meeting of the ABA in Chicago.
"In some instances notorios think they can do a decent job and in other instances they know they don't have the skill or knowledge," says O'Connor from the Bryan Cave firm. "It is very reckless conduct and egregious behaviour."
After paying thousands of dollars for the inadequate services of a notorio, immigrants who once perhaps had a chance at naturalization can find themselves in trouble with the US government for falsifying documents and on the list for deportation. And once deported, their chance of making another application is seriously damaged and any hope of recovering the money spent on a notorio is next to zero.
"It is really a pretty ugly process that can happen to people when you have unscrupulous notorios preying on this misunderstanding," adds O'Connor.
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Using state consumer protection statutes, the firm likely changed the course of history for the two people duped by notorios in Maryland and Virginia. "We successfully brought forward two cases and in both we were able to recover significant sums of money for the victim and we were also able to get injunctions to prevent the particular notorios involved from giving legal advice to other immigration applicants."
Don O'Connor is an associate with the Bryan Cave firm in Washington D.C.