A Van Nuys man will serve time in jail after he was convicted of practicing immigration law without a license, the Los Angeles city attorney's office said Wednesday.
Jesus Lozano, 52, was the target of an undercover investigation as part of a new city-county crackdown on immigration scams. He had been served with a permanent injunction in 2003 to halt such activities.
City Atty. Mike Feuer, whose office filed charges against Lozano, said the conviction "sends a strong message that we will prosecute those who prey on the immigrant community to the fullest extent of the law."
According to Feuer's office, Lozano was convicted Tuesday after entering a plea of no contest on three criminal counts, including the unauthorized practice of law, violation of the Immigration Consultant Act, and violation of a permanent injunction.
Sentencing for Lozano was delayed for three months to allow the city attorney’s office to identify the amount of restitution owed to victims. As part of the deal, Lozano will serve at least 90 days in jail and be placed on three years’ probation, Feuer's office said.
Additionally, the California State Bar will assume control of Lozano’s business to contact victims and return client files.
Lozano was subject to a permanent injunction for the unlicensed practice of immigration law in 2003 after a civil lawsuit. Since then, he has been found in contempt of court on two separate occasions for violating the injunction.
The recent investigation began after Los Angeles County officials received a complaint that Lozano had not stopped giving legal advice. Undercover investigators with the county's Department of Consumer Affairs visited Lozano's office in Van Nuys in December and recorded him giving legal advice, Feuer said.
Rigo Reyes, chief of investigations at the Department of Consumer Affairs, said there may be as many as 2,500 people unlawfully providing immigration advice in California, often to the detriment of their clients' cases.
Some promise to help immigrants get work permits, file asylum claims or apply for other types of relief without actually doing any work, or doing it improperly, he said.
Many claim to be licensed attorneys but are actually state-accredited immigration consultants, who are permitted only to translate answers on immigration forms. Others are rogue public notaries who take advantage of the Spanish word for "notary," which means "lawyer" in some parts of Latin America.