A joint city-county effort to crack down on abuses in immigration consulting has resulted in the filing of criminal charges against the owners of seven businesses, Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn said Tuesday .
Twenty-one cases have been filed in the last week.
The city is alleging that the seven businesses failed to post a required $25,000 bond with the secretary of state. The bond is intended to protect immigrants seeking legal services from fraud.
"If the business is bonded, then customers can apply to the bonding company to get their money back if they're the victim of fraud or if there's been a contractual breach," said Deputy City Atty. Mark Lambert.
Immigration consulting services are designed to help immigrants naturalize, extend visas and work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But in recent years, local and federal law-enforcement agencies have started focusing on the businesses, which they say have massive potential for fraud and exploitation.
"There's a lot of concern over abuses," Lambert said. "That's why this section demanding bonding has been put in the code, and that's why it's punishable by a minimum $2,000 fine."
Other possible penalties include up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines.
The city has charged:
* Ingrid Sharlen Kamran and Ana Olga Del Cid Putzeys, operators of Roisa Legalization Services at 1828 Wilshire Blvd.
* Oscar Orlando Pimentel and Nora Antonieta Guzman, who run the Immigration Service Center at 855 S. Vermont Ave.
* Odila Smith, president of International Immigration Services at 124 W. 2nd St.
* Roger Martinez, owner of Centro Hispano at 2330 W. Olympic Blvd.
* Elmer Mejia, who runs New Life Immigration Service at 634 S. Alvarado St.
All of the defendants are due in court July 8 for arraignment.