Immigration assistance lawsuit settled in Washington
SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced on Wednesday that his office has settled with a disbarred attorney and his business partner for allegedly violating the Consumer Protection Act and the Immigration Assistant Practices Act.
Grosvenor Anschell, owner of Jona Immigration Services in Bellevue, was disbarred in 2000, but registered as an immigration assistant with the Secretary of State's Office soon after.
The law allows immigration assistants to engage in services such as translating and securing birth and marriage certificates, and making referrals to licensed immigration attorneys. The suit alleged that Anschell and his business partner, Samuel Betnona, acted more as an immigration law firm, performing duties that are not allowed under the law.
Assistant Attorney General Pedro Bernal alleged that Anschell defied the state Supreme Court's order of disbarment and state law. In both 2006 and 2008, The Practice of Law Board sent Anschell letters requesting that he stop practicing law, but he didn't, McKenna says.
Bernal further alleged that Betnona also illegally provided advice on immigration matters and prepared documents.
"Even though Anschell had been disbarred, he continued to advertise and provide legal services as though he were a licensed attorney," Bernal said. "Moreover, he continued to charge his clients rates on par with what licensed attorneys charge."
The settlement with the Consumer Protection Division prohibits the defendants from practicing law, including giving advice regarding the qualifications required for a visa, work permit, residency or citizenship.
The defendants will pay a $1,000 civil penalty, with an additional $9,000 in civil penalties suspended, as long as they comply with a list of restrictions. They will also pay $9,000 to reimburse the State for costs associated with the litigation.
Both Anschell and Betnona are permitted to continue to translate forms, help a person obtain a birth certificate or other document, and provide other services allowed under the Immigration Assistant Practices Act, but all contracts must comply with state law.
They must also inform those seeking help from them that they are not attorneys and are unable to provide legal advice. A disclaimer to that effect is also required to be displayed on signs in their workplace.