Men describing themselves as government officials are going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods of Orange County offering guaranteed seats in non-existent English and civics classes in exchange for a deposit, authorities said Wednesday.
In a joint news conference, Gerald G. Johnston, Orange County deputy district attorney, and Harold Ezell, western region commissioner for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, said they want to alert Latinos to the fraud. English and civics classes are required for permanent residency status.
They said well-dressed men are passing themselves off as representatives of the “Department of Education” and telling amnesty applicants that they must put down deposits ranging from $10 to $50 to reserve seats in the classes.
Johnson said authorities have received seven complaints from residents in Anaheim, Stanton and Santa Ana who were victimized by the scam. Those complaints were forwarded to his office Friday by the Orange County Coalition for Immigration Rights. The victims told authorities that the men spoke with an Argentine accent, he said.
“It’s our suspicion that several hundred people have put down deposits,” Johnston said. He urged that anyone who has been victimized come forward. “Once people come forward, we’ll have enough information to catch those crooks,” he said.