Abbott sues notaries

Keith Loria Feb. 23, 2011, 3:49am


McALLEN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced on Wednesday that he has taken legal action against six Rio Grande Valley "notarios" for allegedly violating state law.

The Spanish term "notario público" is used to describe highly experienced, specialized attorneys, and is often used by scam artists to trick Spanish-speaking consumers into thinking that a notary is the same thing, Abbott says.

Abbott alleges that the notaries public provided unauthorized legal advice and document preparation. His office received temporary restraining orders and injunctions against the six commissioned Texas notaries public.

The injunctions were filed against Anna Trejo; Dora Maria Resendez; Josefina Fonseca, doing business as Fonseca Services; Maria Alvarado, doing business as Mary's Bookkeeping & Income Tax; Maria Yolanda Solis; and Emilio Zabala, doing business as Azteca Immigration.

Abbot alleges that the notaries public solicited customers by misrepresenting that they had the proper skill and knowledge to handle their clients' immigration cases, when none of them had the license or accreditation to do so.

Federal law allows only licensed attorneys and organizations accredited by the Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals to offer any immigration consulting services.

Under Texas law, notaries public are specifically forbidden to provide immigration services unless they also hold a license to practice law.

Abbot is seeking civil penalties against all six defendants of up to $20,000 per violation of the DTPA.

In the past nine years, Abbott has closed more than 50 businesses involved in providing such unauthorized legal services.

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