Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed separate lawsuits Wednesday against two women who allegedly provided illegal immigration counseling and defrauded Illinois residents.
The lawsuits — filed against Elizabeth Olvera in Cook County and Armendina “Dina” Romero in Winnebago County — claim the women operated separate immigration assistance scams that offered immigrants services that were fraudulent and unauthorized, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office. All told, the women defrauded at least five Illinois residents out of almost $35,000 after convincing them to meet at restaurants or parking lots.
Neither woman had a license to practice law and they weren’t employed by immigration attorneys or agencies authorized to handle immigration assistance services, the attorney general’s office said. In addition, they didn’t register with Madigan’s office before offering immigration counseling, which is required by state law.
The suit against Olvera claims she told people she could advise on immigration matters, prepare and submit applications regarding a person’s immigration status and acquire government records.
The suit also alleges that she claimed to have contacts with the federal government to expedite the application process. Olvera charged at least three people a total of more than $31,000, an amount that exceeds the statutory limit established by immigration services rules, the attorney general’s office said.
Olvera agreed to provide full refunds when people realized she was running a scam, but she has only returned $180, the attorney general’s office said. She further violated the law by failing to provide people with written contracts or mention a right that allows them to cancel contracts or have documents returned.
The lawsuit against Romero alleges that she also advised on immigration matters and prepared and submitted applications for legal immigration status, the attorney general’s office said. In total, she charged at least two people a total of $3,000.
Romero told at least one person she worked with a church to provide Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications in order to give the impression her services were free, the attorney general’s office said. Like Olvera, she failed to provide written contracts or mention the 72-hour window to cancel a contract or have documents returned.
“The defendants exploited the fear and confusion that many immigrants experience to take their money,” Madigan said. “I urge people, regardless of their legal status, to contact my office for information on legitimate immigration help or if they have been the victim of fraud. My office does not ask for immigration status.”
Immigrants who have concerns about traveling to their county of origin should seek reputable and legitimate legal assistance, including contacting their local consulate office, the attorney general’s office said.
To file a complaint against an immigration services provider, residents can visit Madigan’s website at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov. Complainants can also contact the attorney general’s office at (800) 386-5438 or call the Spanish language hotline at (866) 310-8398.