CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a lawsuit on Friday against a Waukegan woman for allegedly posing as a licensed attorney for immigrants seeking help with their immigration status.

Margaret Carrasco's practices allegedly cheated immigrants out of their upfront payments and put them at risk for deportation. Madigan's suit, filed in Lake County Circuit Court, alleges that Carrasco went to great lengths to mislead immigrants to believe that she was a licensed attorney able to assist them by representing them at immigration hearings and helping with document preparation.

"Because the immigration process is so complex and consumers are often desperate for help, the environment is ripe for scam artists," Madigan said. "This defendant completely misled consumers who needed help, taking their money and putting them at great risk for deportation."

Madigan alleged that Carrasco has deceived consumers into believing she was permitted to practice immigration law since at least 2006. Carrasco allegedly posted law-related certificates and degrees in her office and handed out business cards that touted her schooling at Loyola University's School of Law, though she is not licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Carrasco also allegedly claimed to be a member of the Chicago Bar Association and American Immigration Lawyers Association. Carrasco allegedly told immigrant clients she was a notary public, which in many parts of Latin America refers to a person who practices law.

Madigan's lawsuit alleges that Carrasco charged consumers upfront fees that far exceeded lawful amounts allowed under the Immigration Services Rules and Consumer Fraud Act and that she failed to register with Madigan's office as an immigration service provider as required by law.

Two consumers and two attorneys have filed complaints with Madigan's office and more than one dozen community members have expressed their concerns about Carrasco's services at community outreach events hosted by Madigan's office.

The lawsuit seeks to ban Carrasco from the business of immigration services in Illinois and to obtain restitution for affected consumers. Madigan is also asking that the court impose civil penalties of $50,000 for violating the Consumer Fraud Act, an additional $50,000 for each violation committed with the intent to defraud and an additional $10,000 for each violation committed against a person 65 years of age or older.

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