Maricela Haro has been accused for finding susceptible immigrants and conning them out of thousands of dollars.
She knew how passionately her victims wanted to become legal residents. She at first belies that she is an immigration attorney and introduces her brother as a high level U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official and ensures that he will sign any legal residency application. Instead of meeting the clients at her office she prefers to meet at restaurant and pretend to not charging $200 consultancy fee. She then falsely promise to obtain residency for them regardless of their merit and position. She charges them $ 2500 for as part of application fee. She had a way of gaining trust from their victims by developing intimacy at a personal family level. She invites them to house parties, including her daughter’s quinceañera; She even asked one of them to pick her children from school.
But she unexpectedly did not hold to her promises. She told them to wait for a certain letter or mail for more than a year. Sometimes she assuages her victims in the primary level and after a while she stops answering the phone.
Functioning with Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia and his team, sufferers filed objection at the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Chicago Police Department. Those charges led to Haro’s October capture. She is accused for “stealing of property obtained by sham” for supposedly defrauding 12 people, as said by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She is imprisoned at the Cook County Jail until a Nov. 26 trial and was found busy to put remarks for this account.
Haro’s case offers a atypical sight into a severe predicament of immigration scam that continues to infect immigrant neighborhood. Many sufferers are terrified to lodge charges—they are unregistered and not well-known to the legal arrangement, said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group of attorneys who carry out and coach immigration law.
“Victims are inherently vulnerable, and scammers count on that,” Lichter said. “Victims are not willing to come forward and report it. [Immigrants] don’t feel safe reporting it; they fear that, if they report it, they will get in trouble.”
Commissioner Garcia comments that this problem is getting worse in the recent year and he is not hopeful to get relieved from this sort of fraud near soon. “I’m especially afraid that if the immigration reform happens,” he said, “there’s going to be an explosion of deceptive practices by shady characters waiting to rip people off.”
Ivan Perez said he never thought he would fall victim to a scammer. He met Haro through a friend in 2011. She told him she could help him and his wife become legal permanent residents – at the price of $2,500 each – and promised to get him a work authorization within a few months. She called later to ask for another $1,500 for each case to cover a supposed penalty for entering the country illegally, Perez confided.
Ivan Perez waited for about nine months before checking up on Haro. She already took $ 2500 from them and also charged more $ 1500 for covering up illegal entry. She never replied when he called to ensure on the standing of his application. ultimately, he puzzled out what had happened – They are not the only victims. At a gathering prearranged by Garcia’s staff, he assembled with more than 20 other. Many of them are still scared to openly emerge to tell their stories, he said.
“I went to the police because she already stole money from me,” he added. “I don’t want that to happen to other people. I want her to pay for what she deserves.”