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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ore. AG cracks down on unlicensed legal service providers

By Bryan Cohen | Mar 21, 2013

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline) - Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced disciplinary action Tuesday against two tax practitioners who catered to the Hispanic community and illustrated the growing problem of unlicensed legal and financial advisors.

In February, the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners fined Aracely Hernandez $22,350 for preparing tax returns and offering immigration advice without a tax preparer's license or a license to practice law. On March 8, the board fined Tirsa Fong-Guien $25,000 for making errors on 80 percent of her tax returns.

The two matters demonstrate the problem of notarios in Oregon. In Latin American countries, notario publicos are trained professionals who offer consumer and legal services. In the U.S., unlicensed and untrained people may present themselves as notarios. Unsuspecting immigrants may go to them expecting professional financial and legal advice, often receiving neither.

"Oregonians, particularly those of Hispanic descent, should know that addressing the notario issue is a priority for the Department of Justice," Rosenblum said.

Under the terms of the settlement with Hernandez, she must return documents to her clients and offer them restitution, in addition to $9,921 in attorney fees. Hernandez allegedly took money from clients and failed to complete multiple tax returns. She also allegedly refused to return original documents and issued threats to clients if they did not withdraw their complaints.

Fong-Guien was properly licensed with the state but allegedly cost her customers $155,000 in state tax obligations through the errors she made on the tax returns of her clients. Under the terms of a settlement, Fong-Guien, also known as Tirsa Villanueva, agreed to give up her tax preparer's license and to never again get into the tax preparation business.

Rosenblum's office is supporting H.B. 2573, a law to address the notario issue by making the unlicensed practice of law a separate violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act to facilitate enforcement actions against notaries.

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