Legislature tackles notario fraud

    Photo by Katherine Concepcion.

    Photo by Katherine Concepcion.

    Connecticut legislators examined a bill Tuesday that would crack down on notarios, scam artists who defraud immigrants seeking legal services.

    H.B 6443, An Act Concerning Immigration Services Fraud, would target unqualified immigration service providers. Under the proposal, providers would have to issue clients a copy of their contract at the time of signing and give three days to cancel. Following cancellation, a refund must be issued within 15 days.

    Immigration services advertising would also be more strongly regulated, as providers would be banned from offering guaranteed results, claiming to have access to special programs unavailable to the general public or claiming to have influence over government officials or agencies.

    “This act of fraud is often referred to as notario fraud,” said William Rubenstein, commissioner of consumer protection, who testified at a public hearing of the legislature’s general law committee in Bloomfield.

    Notarios, or immigration consultants, have been known to engage in false advertising to lure unsuspecting immigrants into paying for services.

    Rubenstein explained that in some cases an individual is scammed for money, but in worst-case scenarios, deportation can result from poor information or fake contracts.

    “Unethical notarios may charge a lot of money for help that they never provide,” according to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration website. “Often, victims permanently lose opportunities to pursue immigration relief because a notario has damaged their case.”

    “This is a truly serious issue,” said Rubenstein. “Slightly over 13 percent of Connecticut’s population is foreign born, which is slightly higher than the United States average.”

    He added that “the time is right” for this legislation.

    “The stories that we heard in our public hearings were heart wrenching,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield. “This is really great news for those who are being abused.”